Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crazy Council Chaos Part 2

I went to the Council meeting on Monday, awaiting for any residual fallout from the Friday session.

I wasn't disappointed -- I wish all Council sessions had this much passion not only by the members but also by the public. I can only imagine what it was like during the run-up to Issue 47.

But, before we do that, lets take a step back and review how and why we got to this point.

As I have said in the past and one of the reasons why I ran, is that the City of Lakewood is in a financial mess. The infrastructure is breaking down, tax rates going up and the Mayor sits somewhat passively in his chair doing the bare minimum. The people of Lakewood are starting to get frustrated by the lack of will within the City administration to start making changes.

The City of Lakewood currently has a very small cushion (some say $50,000)in the 2007 Budget.

In various parts of the City the streets are nearing the age of 20 years since they were last re-paved and the sewers are nearing the age of 50-80 years.

Now that is a bit of an oversimplification, of the issues, but it moves us to this point in time.

Woodford is a street in Ward 1 (the ward in which I live and just a few blocks away) it is a small street, approximately 1/10th of mile in distance. The residents on that street are trying to get it replaced. According the residents the street was last repaved in 1967 and has numerous water/sewer line breaks over the years. The residents were told late last year that that street was on the list to be reconstructed in 2007,well budget time came and the street repair list came out and low and behold Woodford was taken off the list and put in the 2008 project list. The residents were angry and began to call on the Council members.

The Gang of 4 finally decided that it was time for a new direction, so that these street swapping items would stop and basically hold the Mayor and his administration accountable.

They called for an Emergency meeting on Friday to replace Bob Seelie as Council President. As I stated in Part One, Seelie is seen as an obstructionist to the Council's agenda to hold the Mayor's feet to fire and begin to solve the City's problems.

So that brings us to the regular Council meeting Monday night.

Seelie was still out of town, so Micheal Dever served as Chair.

Nickie Antonio asked to find out if the Friday session was legal under the Ohio Sunshine laws. I checked the Ohio Attorney General's website and downloaded their Sunshine Law update, it appears that as long as notice was give 24 hours prior to the holding of the hearing, then the meeting was legitimate.

Mary Louise Madigan asked later on in the meeting about public comment during emergency session as a part of the Sunshine laws. More on this topic further down.

During Public comments,one citizen took the Council to task about the Emergency Meeting and the in ability to allow the public to speak.

Councilman Dever responded that this issue had been simmering for the past 18 months, and it was about the Leadership of the Council and how they handle problems that the City has not dealt with in the past 50 years. The four councilmen who called for the meeting felt it was needed to address this issue.
(as side note, according to the Ohio Sunshine Law, it only takes three members to call an emergency meeting)

Another Citizen stood and said that it was "an insult to the Citizens" that they could not be heard in this forum. Perhaps that it was time to "organize to create pressure to defend our constitutional rights"

Kevin Butler responded by stating that it was his belief that the Chair by ordinance has the discretion to withhold public comment. That statement set off the crowd, but in reading the Sunshine Laws, I see no reason to dispute Kevin's statement. I don't have the Lakewood Codified Ordinances to check the Council's duties and responsibilities.

Councilwoman Mary Louise Madigan stated that this was a "bad display of how we work". Also, she wants to change the language in the ordinances to allow for Public comment at all meetings.

Ed Fitzgerald stated that this issue will be debated probably several time during the week, between members.

Ryan Demro indicated to everyone that this issue is really about "how this Council functions" on the problems that face Lakewood. That right now, as deliberative body they are not functioning to the fullest capabilities.

Finally, one more citizen spoke out about the Council works for the Citizens and not the other way around. "Most Chaotic seen" ever on City Council.

Perhaps true, but all in all this is a tempest in a teapot.

What will happen in the end, same thing as before -- NOTHING

Seelie will be ticked off and become even less helpful to the Gang of 4 and Madigan and Antonio will left hanging trying to be the diligent listeners to the Citizens and there will be a new ordinace allowing public comment at all council meetings.
But, the problems facing will continue until we get a new Mayor or we go bankrupt!

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