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City Council, December 16

Mayor Riley joins other mayors seeking fiscal stimulus
Council rejects ordinance to restrain animals in open trucks
Marc Knapp

There was a Council meeting last week. And Christmas is only 9 days away. So we expected the agenda for last night’s meeting to be light. It was. But perhaps the most interesting item was not on the agenda. It was the response by the Mayor to a question posed by Council member Mallard at the end of the meeting. He noted that the Mayor has been in Washington last week and asked as to what it was about.

Mayor Riley said he was attending a Conference of Mayors which included those from some of the major cities of the US. The purpose was to gain support for the cities and municipalities to participate directly in any stimulus package that might be proposed by Congress next year. The Mayor said that at this stage there was no certainty of success. But he and others had met with senators and representatives – including House Speaker Pelosi and Senators Reid and Schumer - to press their cause.

Funds should be distributed similar to CDBG’s
The Mayor suggested that if funds were to be distributed they should be in a manner similar to those of the Community Development Block Grants which went 30% to the states and 70% to the cities. He noted that the cities had projects that could begin almost immediately whereas those of the states usually took some months or longer to implement. The inference of course was that the economic impact would be felt sooner if the funds were given to the cities. Mayor Riley also noted that the drainage projects of the City, in particular that of Market Street, were ready immediately but lacked funds.

The Mayor also said that giving funds to the cities as opposed to the states meant that less “goofy “ projects would be undertaken. He said that city projects were more transparent than those of the states. He cited the scrutiny of Council and the citizens of Charleston in regards to projects undertaken in the City. There would be “no bridge to nowhere” projects. Council would be informed of developments and a commitment to any project would not be made without its assent.

Council votes against ordinance to restrain animals in the back of trucks
As for Council business, the most interesting discussion was over the proposed ordinance to restrain dogs in the back of trucks. Council members White and Alexander proposed an ordinance last week that animals should be properly secured. They should either be caged or tethered. A decision was deferred until this week.

One citizen spoke against the ordinance and stated that he had allowed his dog to ride in the back of his truck for 13 years untethered. It had never come to any harm. What of the problem of people driving through town and knowing nothing of the ordinance? But it was Council member Shirley who did most to dissuade Council from adopting the proposed ordinance.

Council member Shirley noted the increase restrictions that government had placed on citizens over the years. It may have been for the general good, but there had been infringements of civil liberties. He cited restriction related to smoking, second hand smoke, bar closings. And now Council wanted to impose another restriction. He cited the citizen who spoke against the ordinance, how he was a good and law abiding citizen. And now he was facing a $500 fine or 30 days jail if he continued to allow his dog to travel untethered in the back of his truck

The Council member deplored the severity of the proposed ordinance and also complained about the severity of another ordinance. He cited the experience of his next door neighbor, a 75 year old lady. Her son put her trash can on the street the day before pick up and 4 hours before the law allowed it. She received a ticket from the City and a potential $1000 fine, and time in jail. The penalty was out of proportion to the infringement.

Council member Shirley first thought he would vote for the ordinance but on reflection changed his mind. Nobody had brought any facts to the table suggesting dogs had been killed by falling out of pick-up trucks. And by referring to the plight of his neighbor, he suggested that the penalty was out of proportion to the infringement.

Council member Alexander responded and spoke in favor of the ordinance. He said that citizens had approached him and proposed it. Referring to penalties on trash collection infringements, the judge usually was lenient on first offences, though harsh on subsequent, he said. He inferred that presumably it would be the same for those who carried dogs in the back of trucks unrestrained.

Council members Shirley, Lewis, Mallard, Mitchell and Gallant voted against the ordinance. Those for were Council members White, Alexander, Waring and the Mayor. Council member Evans abstained and Council member Wilson was absent.

Limit of 3 passengers on City rickshaws
And finally, Council approved an amendment to a City ordinance to limit the number of passengers to three on a rickshaw plying its trade in the City. Police Chief Mullen said the amendment was to give greater clarity. The existing ordinance relied on the manufacturer’s recommended weight load to restrict the number of passengers This apparently was too loose, hence the proposed change. Council supported the change unanimously.

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