New Council members Bill Bestpitch and Ray Ferris
Two new council members took the dais Tuesday July 6. Councilman Ray Ferris felt his way through with little to say while Councilman Bill Bestpitch had a lot to say. Bestpitch served previously on council from 2000 to 2004.
In adopting council’s organizational meeting schedule for the upcoming year Bestpitch interjected saying, “This [council chambers] is much better for conducting the business of the council then room 159.” Bestpitch noted that there was ample citizen seating in council chambers compared to the cramped EOC room. Work sessions are held in room 159 or EOC located in the basement. He also thought, “it was much less disruptive in this room if people want to come and go for the various briefings.” He was not suggesting that they be televised.
Vice-Mayor Dave Trinkle asked for clarification of the kind of meetings Bestpitch had in mind referring to joint meetings with boards and authorities. Bestpitch then read language that allows by a council resolution to hold a meeting at another location.
Trinkle held the opposite view that if “a meeting requires that more formality, more room, or more ” then it can be held in council chambers. Council member Anita Price wondered how the wording could capture “both worlds.”
City manager Chris Morrill was asked to chime in and agreed that “the ideal would be to be able to televise our workshops.” Morrill agreed with Trinkle that council chambers was very formal and not conducive to “give and take” between council members.
At a January, 2009 briefing then city manager Darlene Burcham quoted the cost at $55,181 to outfit the EOC for televising briefings. For “occasional” RVTV televised briefings the additional cost would only be for closed captioning at $420 for three hours. Trinkle at the time advised that “regular” scheduled televised briefings in council chambers would cost $1000 extra a month. Intermittent televised briefings would require two weeks notice to RVTV. This was the point at which taping briefings to be posted online was bandied about but not pursued further.
Councilman Bill Bestpitch
Bestpitch said that we can already conduct briefings in council chambers and that he “would have difficulty” supporting an expenditure to outfit the EOC. Bestpitch’s amendment to hold 9:00 a.m. briefing in council chambers was seconded by Ferris but fell short of a majority. Only Bestpitch voted for it.
The removal of two items on the consent agenda caused some confusion. One was to discuss in closed session the disposition of fire station #5 prior to the deciding which of the three offers to accept. Bestpitch’s requested that the closed session be removed from the consent agenda.
Bestpitch made it abundantly clear that all he was asking for was to remove the closed session from the consent agenda and discussed separately. “We’ve already had more discussion on the consent agenda then is permitted under parliamentary procedure,” said Bestpitch. Rosen, Trinkle and Mayor Bowers voted against removing it from the consent agenda 3-4.
Bowers left for a court hearing and handed the reins to Vice-Mayor Trinkle. Bestpitch asked for “a simple yes or no answer to … whether identification of the subject [of closed session] would adversely affect the bargaining position and negotiating strategy of the city.” Morrill responded, “In this case I don’t believe it would.”
He then asked the city attorney, Bill Hackworth if it would be possible in the future to identify the subject of closed meetings. For example identifying the tax number or street address of property to be acquired or disposed of.
Hackworth said it would be possible but wondered who would make the call on whether it “adversely affected the city’s bargaining position.” Hackworth thought that “it undoes the purpose for having a closed meeting.” Bestpitch said that the person who requests the closed meeting could make that call. In today’s closed meeting that would be the city manager remarked Bestpitch.
Hackworth feared council would “be besieged by the press and the public” should the subject of closed sessions be divulged. Rosen thought that “this council has been extraordinarily transparent.” He believed it a dangerous path to go down in identifying closed session subjects ad hoc. “It’s not saying we don’t support transparency,” said Rosen. He reiterated that there was no need to change it. Ferris agreed saying, “you’re getting on a slippery slope … you’re putting a more restrictive process in place then what is necessary.” There was no motion and the issue was dropped.
Councilman Ray Ferris
New council member Ray Ferris said he was relieved that many of the tough issues were resolved before July 1. “We still have some tough issues to consider,” said Ferris. He admitted that it is a challenge to make decisions that are “fair to everybody.” He is committed to involving the citizens in the process. Ferris said he seconded Bestpitch’s motion to open up for discussion moving briefings to council chambers though he believed that logistics made it impractical. “By raising it will be something we will discuss every time we have something to talk about,” concluded Ferris.
In other business:
The city manager Chris Morrill amended the trash collection for the physically challenged. The requirement to have a yearly doctor’s certificate was eliminated.
Bestpitch’s concern over parking garage maintenance deferral as presented in the financial report was clarified as being cosmetic in nature – painting and cleaning.
The director of finance, Ann Shawver said there was significant improvement to the original revenue projection for fiscal year 2010. The prior projection was that revenue would be down 3% compared to FY09. It is now projected to be down only 1.7% from the projected budget. There have been three to eight months of consecutive improvement in tax collections. Improvements were for the: sales tax, lodging tax, cigarette tax, admission tax, and food tax.
The city’s portion of school funding is down $1 million but is an improvement over the project $2.5 million projected earlier. Shawver also noted improvement in Roanoke’s unemployment rate.
A public hearing will be held for award of Fire station #5 on August 2 at 2:00 p.m. to the Que House, Inc. – Gamma Alpha Chapter of Omega Psi Phi, Inc. A public hearing on the same day will be held for an alternative location at 530 8th Street, SW for the second offerer for the fire station, Rebuilding Together Roanoke (RTR). Economic development will work with the third offerer Jamie Brads, owner of Blue Ridge Rescue Supply.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Politics, Roanoke City Politics
Tags: city_council, open_government