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City Council, April 28

Charleston – the most mannerly City, again!
Resolutions, bond rollover, grants
Marc Knapp

  It would have been a short meeting if were not for the presentations and recognitions. There were quite a few items on the Ways and Means agenda but all were approved without any or little discussion. And in our view some discussion was merited. As for the Council agenda, there was little of import and little discussion.  

 The Council meeting kicked off with a presentation to the City by the Charleston School of Protocol. In the school’s survey, Charleston again won the award as the “most mannerly city” in the US. The award and distinction has become an annual thing but one can’t help thinking there is a smack of partiality. And apart for its annual appearance before City Council, I never see a reference to the school. However, from other accounts, the City certainly deserves a high mark for the politeness of its citizens.  As the spokesperson for the school noted, citizens greet strangers on the street. A nice practice, but try it in some other cities, like New York and you may be regarded with some suspicion.
A resolution in support of the “economic recovery package”
And then there was the Resolution “.. that the City stands firm in its commitment to its residents, business and communities to utilize funds granted to it through the economic recovery package responsibly and in accordance with the law to encourage economic growth and the expansion of the local job market”.  There was no discussion about the resolution so we have no idea what precipitated it or indeed why it was necessary. Maybe it was a stab at Governor Sanford who has questioned much of the federal government’s stimulus package. All members voted in favor of the resolution, even Council member Mallard who has often voted against motions he thought were unnecessary and pointless.
Change in procurement policy and a Bond rollover
Two items on the Ways and Means agenda that needed discussion were a change in the procurement policy and roll over of a $1.88 million General Obligation Bond Anticipation Note.  The change in procurement was to allow the Deputy Chief Finance Officer to approve and sign contracts for goods and services. His name will be added to the CFO’s and the Mayor’s, to sign contracts up to $40,000 without having to come before Council.
We thought this strange and asked whether Mr. Bedard was leaving or planning to? Had there been a disagreement over policy? No Council member responded publicly but one handed me a letter from Mr. Bedard that had been given to members. He had applied for sick leave and the procurement change was a necessary adjustment during his absence. We would ask then why the measure wasn’t just temporary. Another Council member told us he thought that it still would be good practice to allow the Deputy CFO to sign off considering the check writing burden. I suppose he has a point.
The $1.88 million rollover of a GOB Anticipation Note was necessary because of the maturity of the note issued last year. The new note will have a maturity of June 11, 2010.  The original funds were used to purchase the property on which the Sofa Super Store was located and which burned down. As far as we know, a decision has not been made as to what will be done on the property. Considering the harshness of the times and the lack of funds, we suspect the City will be rolling over the note again in 12 months time.  
And still more grant applications
And then there were the new grant application, a feature that is becoming common on Council agendas.  This week there was an application to the US Department of Justice under the COPS Hiring Recovery Program  for $2.85 million. If granted, the City will hire 23 police officers. No City match is required.
There were many pages of supporting information provided by the City which we confess would have taken us hours to read and understand. So we will credit the P&C which tells us that the City must guarantee to continue hiring the police officers for a year after the grant runs out.
And then there was another application for $500,000 with no City match required. The program is called Housing and Community Development Brownfields Job Training, and is administered by the EPA. “The goal of the grant is to train 120 residents through the expertise of Trident Technical College and the MUSC”.   Makes you wonder doesn’t it? 

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