Michael Bobbitt: Notes From The Peanut Gallery (June 11th, 2014)

The City Council’s meeting on Monday was recessed and resumed Wednesday evening to continue seeking a budget consensus. Wednesday’s meeting was prefaced with drama and a meeting saving rescue maneuver by the city manager and mayor. The drama began about an hour before the meeting’s start time. Zeus tossed a thunderbolt into the local power grid leaving city hall in the dark physically not just figuratively. The Peanut Gallery was abuzz speculating that Zeus was displeased with the elimination of the Main Street Manager position, the sole paid staff member of the Downtown Development Commission. When from out of the darkness of council chamber came the city manager, the mayor, and a council member to the rescue towing tables, chairs and handheld portable lights. There is a little known State rule called open meeting. This rule prohibits holding public meetings away from the public’s sight or changing the location without proper notice. So as the other council members, city staff members, the public, and the media began to arrive the front lobby of City Hall was transformed into a makeshift council chamber. The council chamber was completely visible to the public and Zeus whom continued his protest outside on the city street.

Budget Review – Approval

The agenda for Monday’s meeting included passage of the budget. The passage was derailed when the Chair of the DCC and the Director of the EDC plus two EDC members objected to a cost cutting measure that eliminated the Main Street Manager position. The short story is this; the Council approved the budget without saving the Main Street Manager position. The rest of the story is the political thinking rationalizing a business decision.

Following the formalities of Mr. Griffin summarization of Monday’s meeting the Mayor asked the council members how they wanted to proceed. Council Member Daeke started the discussion saying the council does a lot of things half way, recreation is a good example we didn’t fund maintenance and upkeep. Adding that “[t]he DDC is another one where we funded the position but did not have any operating money.” He stressed the need to fund some part of the DDC’s needs. He then proposed what became known as the Daeke Compromise. Using the funds allocated for the currently vacant planning department manager’s position, until that position is filled, to fund some operations of the DDC or Redevelopment Commission. Those funds would be available to do things “like tangible appearance stuff”. Tangible appearance things Council Member Daeke has in mind included putting facades on buildings, putting up signs, and lights making the buildings to look attractive. (A frontend loader and several large dump trucks have a better chance of improving the look of downtown than facades, signs, and lights.) Additionally, the Deake Compromise include transferring the current Main Street Manager to another recently opened position within the city. All in all the Daeke Compromise could satisfy the DDC and their allies the EDC, maintains city staffing level, and does not require any additional funding. Apparently Zeus approved of the Daeke Compromise. As the Council was voting approval of the budget with the Daeke Compromise natural sunlight brighten the makeshift council chamber

A downside of this compromise, the city looses the Main Street designation. An upside could be a commitment by downtown property owners to make more than facade changes to their tired looking building. One side note, the Mayor and Council allowed John Populorum to speak as though at Monday’s public hearing. Mr. Populorum opposed saving the Market Street Manager position.

Additional Business

After the budget was approved the Council approved modification to Change Order #4 for the Henderson Water Reclamation Facility Project. This change order was discussed Monday and a decision was tabled until the Wednesday meeting. The need for the change order is the result of a code change after construction started. The Council may have made a penny wise and pond foolish decision regarding this change. They approved a workaround, an alternative approach, to a problem saving some money now. As Council Member Daeke said at the beginning of the meeting, the council does a lot of things half way. Time will tell if the alternative was the better solution.