Today we have a Guest Post (with some additional comments by me at the end) from a long time NCCo Council observer, who thought that DL readers might be interested in some additional detail on current Council issues. I certainly am! This contributor goes by the psuedonym Animadverto, and I hope will join in the discussion.
During the October 22 committee meetings, some New Castle County Council members showed a surprising degree of independence from the Gordon administration by rejecting two of the administration’s proposals. It probably helped that vociferous Gordon allies Jae Street and Bob Weiner were not present during these committee meetings. The first proposal (presented in the Community Services Committee) to be routed was Ordinance 13-078, which would create an Office of Community Governing. This was an office established by Gordon during his first turn as County Executive.
Council members were clearly suspicious of the Gordon administration’s motives in establishing an office of full of Gordon appointed employees who would regularly attend community meetings and, potentially report back to the administration about what council members said or did. Council members, who have privately referred to the proposal as the “Office of Community Spying,” were having none of it. Councilman George Smiley stated, “I said I’d sponsor it, but I won’t vote for it.” So many council members obviously felt the same way that Community Services General Manager Alan Matas was forced to request that the measure be tabled. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
A measure that was withdrawn by Council President Chris Bullock after discussion in the Executive Committee meeting was Ordinance 13-079. This measure would have raised the pay scale for Land Use General Manager from a range (paygrade 38) of $83,759-$129,936 to a range (paygrade 40) of $92,344 to $143,255. Concerns raised by Council members included the comments that the new Land Use General Manager had been on the job for only a month, that the pay scale should have been negotiated before the General Manager took the job and that outstanding county employees are not treated in the same way.
Many of those voicing concerns were not the usual five–Cartier, Diller, Hollins, Kilpatrick and Smiley. Perhaps Council members are waking up to the fact that if they don’t defend their right to act as legislators, the Gordon administration will willingly walk all over them.
cassandra_m back again — Adam Taylor wrote about the salary issue for the new Land Use Manager yesterday, noting that the Gordon Administration wanted to give the new hire $13,255 raise. She’s been on the job less than two months. So is this a thing? Giving appointees raises as soon as they start? Wilmington did this and I’m stunned at this ask. Did she not know how much the job paid? The ordinance that would have approved this never came to the floor, since the Committee members pushed back so hard. Right now, there is not audio of this Executive Meeting, but will post it when I see it.
I went to listen to the Office of Community Governing discussion (you can listen here, starting at about 38min and lasting about 35 min), and that was genuinely interesting. There was a good, substantive and civil exchange focused entirely around the funds for this office and about this office’s mission being redundant with that of the Councilpeople and their staff. It was pointed out that while there is a claim that this offices uses no new funds, it was specifically tapping into stabilization funds which is new. It was also pointed out (and you could tell this was a sore spot) that while the Special Services department lobbied Council intensely for new headcount (in addition to retaining a number of currently empty slots), they had transferred one of their urgently needed headcount over to this new office. So where does this leave the Special Services group who claimed they were so acutely understaffed?
You can also tell that Council mostly understood how funded, but vacant positions were being used to get around Council to staff this thing. And anyone running a budget will tell you what a great hedge funded but unfilled positions can be. In terms of mission, it was pointed out that when Gordon was first NCCo Exec, Council was alot smaller, and tougher for sitting councilpeople to manage the load. With the expansion (with staff), none of the councilpeople speaking here thought that they needed the additional level of service. It was pointed out that the support that they needed — a) lifting a restriction on Department Heads from speaking to certain councilpeople and b) improving the communication with the State for some of the organizations that are governed by State rules — are completely unaddressed by this new department.
I had actually spent some time trying to get the clip of this part of the meeting ready to embed to this post, and then just left it on my home computer. I *will* post the clip here, but after I get home today.