On Thursday, after its regular meeting (moved from Monday because of President’s Day) had concluded, a vote failed to resolve Council into the Committee of the Whole after At-Large Council members Brian Jeffries and Carol Wood voted “no” on the move. This prevented the meeting from occurring, and thus Council could not discuss such things as a new contract with city UAW workers, or receive answers on the deficit elimination plan.
Wood and Jeffries are unsupportive of Robinson’s new Council meeting set up, and have been voting against resolving from regular meeting into CoW, though a vote has only come up on it once before. Robinson’s system moves CoW meetings from Thursday afternoons. Now, CoW is held every other Monday night during the time Council usually has its regular business meeting.
Jeffries says that effectively cutting the number of yearly meetings from 50 to 25 weakens Council and slows down government. Wood said that it cuts down on time for the public to address Council.
Jeffries told Robinson his Thursday “no” vote was a sign of his continued disapproval the new meeting and he also mentioned that he had told her as much in an e-mail sent at the beginning of the year in response to an e-mail she sent out notifying other Council members of the meeting format change. Robinson said she had never received the e-mail.
After the meeting concluded, Jeffries produced his e-mail, but Robinson later noticed that he had transposed two letters in her e-mail address.
At the beginning of Monday’s Council meeting, Robinson took time to point out Jeffries’ typo.
“It’s only appropriate that when we find there’s an error, we rectify it,” Robinson said.
Jeffries tried to interject, asking for a “point of personal privilege,” but Robinson told Jeffries “no.” First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt left Monday’s meeting after the exchange, but he could not be reached for comment as to why.
Robinson said the purpose of her comment Monday was to “correct the record so that everyone was very clear on the erroneous information that was given.”
After Thursday’s meeting, Robinson said she did not buy Jeffries’ assertion that the new system of meetings would slow down Council proceedings. She said that Council members would have more time in committee meetings to discuss legislation. When asked on Thursday what could be done to heal disagreements with the new system, she said, “I do what I’ve been doing, which is a sign of leadership.”
“It’s not anything personal, it’s what I believe,” Jeffries said of his opposing the new meeting system. “I think we need to have more meetings, not less. That’s setting aside the important event of the public being able to weigh in and learn and comment to us. I believe in transparency and openness, and I just don’t think this is where this is going.”
In other matters, Monday’s meeting marked the first time Mayor Virg Bernero has been at a Council meeting in several months — and he returned with guns blazing. Bernero chided the Council for not passing a snow removal ordinance, which was discussed last year, but never acted on. Bernero also pointed out that he is still waiting on Council to vote on his deficit elimination plan from December, which eliminated a $3 million budget gap. The plan’s measures — like furloughs and a spending freeze — have still gone into effect.
Also on Monday, Council set a public hearing for March 8 for the proposed brownfield tax incentive plan for the redevelopment of the Governor’s Inn on South Pennsylvania Avenue into a Sonic drive-thru restaurant.