Incoming council looking for transparency, change

Published 11:42 pm Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The incoming City Council members and mayor are planning to work together to fix what they see as the problems while promoting transparency.

The members of the new administration have been established. City Clerk Priscilla Daniel said affidavit ballots were not significant enough in the general election races to change the outcome, so they were not counted. Those who lead in balloting are the winners of the election. The new administration includes mayor-elect Ed Pinero Jr. and council members-elect precinct one Larry Watkins, precinct two Lynn Bogan Bumpers, precinct three Jason Todd Lane, precinct four Larry Breland and precinct five Wayne Gouguet. The new administration will be sworn into office on Monday, July 6, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. The new administration’s first council meeting will be held Tuesday, July 7.

Pinero said that as mayor he plans to provide leadership and work with the council in an effort to solve the city’s problems. He said the first thing the incoming administration should do is have a meeting with the city manager and city clerk to develop a plan to balance the budget and identify available revenues. That plan will help the administration determine what efforts can be taken immediately and which ones might take longer.

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Pinero plans to introduce the new council to the Board of Supervisors in an effort to establish county-wide teamwork. Pinero is employed by the county as director of Planning and Development.

That meeting may involve the two governmental bodies forming a list of county-wide projects to present to Congress so that federal money can be sought to fund the work. Pinero said that in order to complete the Memorial Boulevard project, a request for $4 million already has been submitted to Rep. Gene Taylor’s office and is on his list of priorities.

Having the city and county work together will help both bodies secure future appropriations, he said.

Returning council member Watkins also would like to see the county and its two cities work together for the betterment of the entire county.

When the city budget is balanced and the city is working with the Board of Supervisors, Pinero believes the city will see greater success.

Breland said he realizes there are problems in the city and asks the public to be patient as the new administration works to address them.

“The mistakes I make, if any, will be of the head and not of the heart, because my intentions are to do what’s right,” Breland said.

One way to improve the finances of the city’s utility department will be to address the large number of outstanding, unpaid utility bills. To handle that problem, Pinero would like to see cut off policies strictly enforced.

Council member-elect Jason Todd Lane said incoming council members need to put personal agendas aside and work for the betterment of the city as a whole. He would like to work on the city’s drainage problems in every precinct.

Gouguet agrees with Lane and said drainage problems could be addressed with a master plan. A list of priorities would be drawn up to handle other issues in the city. Gouguet would like to see the most pressing handled first, then work down the list.

Both Gouguet and Lane see the city’s finances as a major issue that needs to be examined. Gouguet wants to open up the city’s books for public inspection. Lane wants to ensure the city is fiscally responsible.

“If we all work together as a team, I got high expectations,” Lane said.

Gouguet would like to get the public more involved and keep residents informed by abiding by open meetings laws.

Watkins would like to see the number of executive sessions reduced. “I want transparency in the city government,” he said.

Watkins said he’d like to see the administration have accountability and stability in the city’s day-to-day operations. His long-range goals include setting up a paving schedule for the entire city and establishing an organized schedule for the public works department. That way projects will be completed instead of forgotten about. Watkins said he has noticed that sometimes when a project is started, the department in charge of the project might be sidetracked by another project.

“That’s the kind of things we got to get away from,” Watkins said.

Watkins also would like to see tax dollars spent wisely so they provide the most benefit possible for the city.

Bumpers did not return phone calls for comment.