Sunday, August 29, 2010

Its Time to Step Up to The Plate

My frustration while on Council during court discussions, which continues today, is the failure of those Council members who support moving forward with the current plan to explain their position beyond rather vague statements like, court order, or moral obligation; while expecting detailed answers on options they do not support. The courts project as currently proposed will be the largest in the city's history and is being considered at a time when the economy is in the dumps. The answers provided by the Council majority thus far are totaling inadequate in light of the challenges the city now faces.

The recent OpEd by Vice-Mayor Greenlaw gave a very good outline of the current court plans but addressed only in passing the reasons for why she supported moving the project forward. I strongly support having a public presentation and public hearing on the impacts the court project will have on city services and priorities. However, why are we having to wait for another staff presentation when the answers should be coming from Council members who must have considered all the implications prior to giving their support for the current course of action?

Below are a list of the questions that have put forward which deserve answers from those Council members who have made up their minds and are prepared to move forward with a $40M court project. Its time they, not staff, explain their positions to the people who will ultimately have to pay for their decision--city residents.

1. Some Council members referred to moving the courts project forward as a "moral obligation." Can you explain what you mean by that? Can you also put your position in context in regard to your views on the city's obligations to public safety and education?

2. Do you believe that the local judiciary can order court facilities be built and that they can also assume control of the project? If so can you provide your reasoning for this position and site examples to back it up?

3. You refused to request a moratorium on implementation of state code section 15.2-1643 on addressing court security issues last year. The General Assembly will grant such a moratorium thru 2012 if requested. Will you support such a request now? If not can you explain your position?

4. Former Council member Joe Wilson has stated that both the Executive Plaza and Maury School were put forward for court use and rejected by the local judiciary as late as 2002. This, along with recent renovation work on the courts, would seem to refute the position put forward that court needs have been ignored and should be addressed now. Do you agree with this position?

5. In the Moseley Report it was made clear that, "a cost of more than about $30 million for new court facilities is not affordable for the City at this time." Do you agree with this statement? If not, why do you feel the city can afford more than 30M and where do you plan on getting the funds to pay for it?

6. Based on the statement above staff recommended building on the JDR site--Princess Anne Option C. Why did you support other options such as the post office, or even the current plan, which exceeded the staff budget recommendations?

7. From the 2010 budget letter--"During a review of the City's ongoing financial situation, Fitch's Rating Service maintained the City's credit rating, but downgraded the outlook to negative. The rating agency cited three factors: declining sales taxes, declining real estate values, and declining fund balance positions." How do you think moving forward with the court facilities as planned will affect the City's bond rating?

8. Do you dispute the contention that to move forward with the court project as planned that it will negatively affect other City priorities and city services? If so, can you elaborate on why you believe this will not be the case?

9. In discussions with some local attorney's there are questions regarding the case load projections as well as court space needs. The impact of technology on court needs has also been brought up. Have you talked with any other groups outside staff, judges and consultants about the scope and needs of the courts? If so, whom have you talked with?

10. Would you support looking at a regional option? Can you please elaborate on your position?

Are there other questions you would like to see Council address?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The video shown to City Council on the Courts project: Bottom left corner, it cycles with 2 other projects.

The purpose of the study was not to point fingers. Herlong Associates saw an option that had not been explored and recognized that the City was moving forward without taking the normal, necessary steps for a construction project.

The next step is a facilities assessment; what shape are the buildings in, how much space to they actually have. Then a use study; what do they REALLY need, and for how long. From there a schematic design can be created that can be used to get hard costs, with definite numbers.

At this point, Council doesn't even know if the new building is 3 stories or not. They are arguing against points clearely stated in the Moseley or Glave report, and they have no budget in place.

Watch the video, and see how many more questions than just the 10 above you come up with.