Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dec. 10 Legislative Meeting Debunks Daily Times' Claims

By Terry E. Cohen, Council President

Before posting again in direct response to the Daily Times December 2 edition, I wanted to note a few things from last Monday night's legislative meeting (Dec. 10). While this post started out as just an update, it certainly provided more evidence to debunk the Daily Times' published claims -- its own and that of others -- that select members of Council are uncooperative with the Mayor.

Number of Council Meetings

First, during opening announcements, I thanked your current Council for their dedication and diligence, having held 181 meetings since the post-election Reorganization Meeting in April 2011. The correct number of Council meetings during this period is actually 173, which lowers the monthly average from over 9 per month based on the first 15 months to 8.2 per month calculated through the end of 2012. I mention that average because Council typically schedules 4 sessions a month - 2 work sessions and 2 legislative sessions for regular business, which is 25% more meetings than was previously the norm for regularly scheduled meetings and 50% more than just a few years ago.

As I noted in my brief comments, your Council has handled a number of long-term issues, such as the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) litigation, Enterprise Zone designation and the councilmanic election redistricting/reapportionment - the first was a once in a lifetime endeavor, and the next two are done once every 10 years. While the Council had differences with the Mayor and among members on the elections issue (which was ultimately decided on the basis of data, not politics, while achieving the goal of "proportional representation"), the Mayor and the Council had a unified front on the WWTP and the Enterprise Zone.

This contributes to the body of evidence debunking the Daily Times' promoted myth that a majority of the Council set out to give the Mayor an "uphill legislative battle." (More on that subject in another post later.)

Council Commended by Auditor

Pam Baker, the chief contact person with the City's auditing firm of Barbacane, Thornnton and Company, LLP, presented the final audit to the Council, the Mayor and the public at the meeting. Monday, Dec. 3, Ms. Baker reviewed the draft of the audit with the Council at its work session, enabling members to get clarifications of a few problems identified, the way numbers were represented, etc. This is the earliest the City has seen its audit numbers in years -- something Council Vice President Debbie Campbell has pushed for ever since she was first elected in 2005 -- and the value to the City of a timely audit was emphasized by Ms. Baker.

Ms. Baker also commended the Council for taking an hour-and-a-half of its time to review the audit with her, saying few of her clients take that level of time and interest. She noted the value of the audit to the budgeting process we undertake each year.

Garbage Ordinance Removed from Agenda at Request of Mayor and Administration

The Council amended its legislative agenda at the Monday night meeting to remove the Garbage Ordinance in accommodation of the request from the Mayor and Administration so they can resolve an administrative issue. This is not an unusual circumstance. The public record clearly shows that agendas have been changed, often at the last minute, and special legislative meetings have been scheduled by Council -- numerous times -- to accommodate the Mayor and the Administration.

Further, the Garbage Ordinance was moved forward at the Council's March 5, 2012, work session, with the Council giving its suggestions and go-ahead for Public Works and the City Attorney's office to work out the necessary language.

This again demonstrates that constant accusations published and supported by the Daily Times that the Council - or its leadership, or select members -- is chronically holding up the work of the City as a form of opposition to the Mayor are untrue.