Monday, December 19, 2005

The Last City Council Hurrah

In a special meeting Monday (Dec. 19, 2005) the City Council gave final approval to contracts giving raises to police rank-and-file and superior officers.

The vote caps three years of negotiations, but the contract’s expiration in 2006 means the new administration must soon begin new contract talks. Former Mayor Rick Taylor reminded the council of that obligation among other comments on the governing body’s responsibilities.

The raises will also mean that the police chief’s salary and that of the Public Safety Director will have to be adjusted accordingly, officials confirmed. The contract will give captains top pay of $111,000 in 2006 and the chief must make more by state law. The Public Safety Director, one of three department heads mandated in the City Charter, will have to draw more than the chief.

The issue is under consideration by Personnel Director Karen Dabney, City Administrator Norton Bonaparte said.

The City Council also approved a plan for King’s Temple Community Development Corp. to take over 10 city-owned properties in order to build new homes. The sites were formerly committed to development by a Westfield-based developer who built on about half the 67 properties before the redevelopment plan fell through.

The Rev. Gary Kirkwood of Kings Temple Ministries said the plan still needs a judge’s approval before the parcels can be released for redevelopment.

The city and the former developer went into litigation over the disposal of the remaining sites. Kings Temple member William Wheeler thanked the council for their decision and said, “I’m sure you will be satisfied with what we are about to do.“

The evening had been scheduled to include a 6 p.m. closed session to discuss personnel, but that meeting did not take place. The incoming administration of Mayor-elect Sharon Robinson-Briggs takes over in January and the closed meeting was understood to be a meeting of proposed cabinet members with the council.

Robinson-Briggs said after Monday’s meeting that she was “still interviewing” candidates and that she expected a vote at the annual reorganization meeting in January.

The date and time of the reorganization have not yet been confirmed. Robinson-Briggs asked Monday whether it was at 3 p.m. Jan. 1, but she received no answer on the question.

In public comment, Taylor questioned whether the council had interviewed people coming into the administration and City Council President Linda Carter answered, “No, we have not interviewed anyone.“

Taylor counseled all the members to study the City Charter and spoke against party bossism.

“Make sure you understand your responsibilities under the charter,” Taylor said.

The meeting was characterized by thanks all around for police and council members in a rough year that saw 14 homicides and bitter political divisions.

“This city has been polarized as never before,“ Councilman Ray Blanco said as he gave effusive thanks to colleagues.

Blanco, Carter and others called on residents and officials to pull together and move the city forward in 2006.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: city council


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