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11/14/2012
County Council good government coalition checks Gordon's powers as term begin - News Journal

George Smiley, Penrose Hollins, Janet Kilpatrick, Bob Weiner, Lisa Diller, Dave Tackett and John Cartier voted for the two laws. Jea Street, Bill Bell and William Powers voted against them. Chris Bullock and Tim Sheldon abstained. Joe Reda voted for one and abstained on the other.


Powers checked as terms begin; NCCo council reins in rules on contracts

News Journal 11/14/12

The New Castle County Council passed two laws and changed one of its rules Tuesday – the day County Executive Tom Gordon and County Council President Christopher A. Bullock were sworn in to office – to try to reduce the duo’s influence.

One of the laws lowers the threshold for contracts that need the council’s approval from $50,000 to $25,000. The other stops the executive’s ability to automatically renew certain contracts without the council’s approval.

The rule change requires any law that originates from the executive branch lists the senior member of the appropriate council committee as the lead sponsor, which eliminates the executive’s ability to assign a political ally as the sponsor.

Councilman George Smiley, who supported former County Executive Paul Clark in the September Democratic primary won by Gordon, sponsored the three initiatives. He said good government, not politics, was the motivation.

Councilman Jea Street disagreed. He noted that some council members were quoted in a recent news story saying the measures were to expand the council’s fiscal oversight because Gordon was taking office.

Street said the moves were wrong because the council should try to get along with the incoming administration.

“I just don’t want to get caught up in a bunch of hypertechnical foolishness when the only purpose of it is confrontation,” Street said. “I hope we aren’t setting up a combative relationship with the new administration that is counterproductive.”

He also said the moves tarnished an otherwise historic day, when Bullock took office as the council’s first black president.

Smiley said Gordon was involved in running a Democrat against him in the 2004 primary and a Republican against him in the 2004 general election. Gordon denied that Tuesday. Smiley, who won both races, said that isn’t why he introduced the three moves.

But Smiley did say he didn’t like Gordon’s comments after this year’s primary in which he expressed confidence about getting items through the council.

“I’m not looking for confrontation, but it will be a cold day in hell when I run from it,” Smiley said.

Gordon said Tuesday he’ll accept the council’s votes.

“I won’t veto them,” he said. “I plan to try to develop a good relationship with the council, as I did before.”

Smiley, Penrose Hollins, Janet Kilpatrick, Bob Weiner, Lisa Diller, Dave Tackett and John Cartier voted for the two laws. Street, Bill Bell and William Powers voted against them. Bullock and Tim Sheldon abstained. Joe Reda voted for one and abstained on the other.

The rule change, passed earlier in the day at a committee meeting before Bullock took office, passed by a similar margin.

Bell withdrew two bills that were designed to prevent Clark from padding the county’s permanent employee rolls with political appointees before he left office. The bills were introduced when county officials thought Clark would be in office until Jan. 1 but became moot when the state solicitor ruled that he had to leave office today because he was serving the unexpired term of Chris Coons.

In other business, the council approved the Lincoln Center, a 1.5-million-square-foot mixed-use project on 56 acres along Del. 7 near the heavily developed intersection of U.S. 40. The vote was 13-1, with Street voting against it because of the increased congestion he said the development will cause.

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