The effort to start getting Wilmington’s long-term budget problem under control had a major setback last night when they failed to override the Mayor’s veto of an ordinance that defunded 8 vacant WFD positions. Sherry Dorsey-Walker, Trippi Congo, Bob Williams, Justin Wright and Sam Prado were cravenly joined at the last minute by Darius Brown, who apparently thought that since this vote might lose, he should get off of the reform train.
What’s really bad about all of this is that you can take one good look at that group of names and the thing you know is that they think that this is a game. In spite of the WEFAC reports to the contrary, this group of people thinks that governing means that they are still in high school – where you defend your cliques and to hell with everyone else. And you can look at that group of names as the ones who fairly enthusiastically voted to tax Wilmington property owners in order to basically fund a party that Wilmington property owners won’t be able to take part in. Take a good look at that group of names. Not one of them can read a P&L or spreadsheet and expect that city taxpayers will fill in and fund their complete failure of leadership here. And the risk to those of us who are stakeholders in the city is that this is not a group of people who even care whether Wilmington slides into the problem that Detroit is suffering through today.
The worst part of this Clown Show is Councilman Mike Brown. Just before the vote was taken, news broke that he returned from vacation to take this vote and did it by flying back from Florida first class. Paid for by Wilmington taxpayers. Other Councilmembers also returned from vacation, including Maria Cabrera who was also in Florida and she was not returning on a city-paid ticket. You should see the WDEL video – he lied to the reporter (saying he was in Maryland) and then tells the reporter that he lied because she’d find out anyway. What? There’s no reason to lie about where you are – especially when you end up embarrassing your colleagues and the people you are supposed to represent. Not that this is new for Brown – the city has paid a pretty penny to settle sexual harassment suits brought against him by WPD officers. And Theo Gregory doubles down on the embarrassment by defending First Class Tickets:
“We’re dealing with a 15-day timeframe, and I need to get nine votes on a very important piece of legislation. Do I tell him to drive back? To catch an economy flight back, knowing that when he does fly with his wife, he flies first class because of a medical condition?”
Why yes, yes you do. First, because it is really difficult to have any credibility about reducing Wilmington’s expenditures when you are authorizing First Class Plane tickets. Second, while it is not unusual for an employer to reimburse an employee for returning during a vacation, you do that within the regular travel policy. I’ve had to break a vacation for work and my employers still don’t pay for first class tickets (unless that is all that is available). Brown should be responsible for the difference between a regular airfare and a first class one.
Make no mistake, Gregory failed in a key piece of leadership here. He should have a stake in the credibility of the body he leads, and enabling Mike Brown to continue to embarrass that Council (especially those who really do try to take this seriously reinforces the cynical view many people have of Council. That it exists to be largely self-serving and serving of the people who are friends of the folks in Council. Mike Brown can’t leave Council fast enough for me, but Gregory should be in the business of removing Brown from his Public Safety Committee Chairmanship. Not all of his Council is participating in the Clown Show and real leadership would be in the business of protecting those who are taking their jobs and consituents seriously.
Trippi Congo was originally going to vote against the veto and – as is his habit – crumbled at the end. He doesn’t do much to represent his constituents and this vote was part of that. Sammy Prado voted against the original ordnance because he got a quid pro quo from the Administration. Sammy also voted for the tax increases. Dorsey-Walker and Williams apparently only represent the WFD and the WPD (who mostly can’t vote for either of them) and who don’t mind increasing homeowner taxes to do it. Justin Wright is locked into some crazy fight with Theo Gregory and while he has been loudly telling everyone that Council should reduce its budget, both Wright and Congo voted NO to an effort to reduce the size of Council a few years back. And I’ll note that neither of these so-called Change Agents have proposed their own legislation to defund any part of their own office. They are just complaining about it. Darius Brown spends his day populating his Facebook page with other people’s ideas about economic justice and yet couldn’t find the backbone to make sure that his taxpaying constituents are getting any justice in stopping the fiscal slide of the City.
Make no mistake – public safety was not at risk here, even according the data they reported to the Finance Committee during the budget hearings. The people screaming the loudest about these cuts were WFD and WPD folks. Which should tell you exactly what was on the line here. As for me – I’m a dyed in the wool tax and spend liberal, and even I can see that this is a City that disrespects its taxpayers on the regular. It is too bad that there is a good portion of City Council who is working to enable this disrespect, rather than demand that their constituents’ money is spent in a way that respects the need of those constituents to live in a city that is fiscally healthy.