June 2002 Highlights

June was primarily spent on the process of developing a city budget, and we’re nearing major decision points.

Budget hearing:   The formal hearing on the city’s 2002-03 budget is scheduled for tomorrow night (Monday, July 1) at 7:30 p.m. in the aldermen’s meeting room (fifth floor) at City Hall South.  Any citizen with a comment on the budget is invited to attend and speak.  (There will be a three-minute limit on an individual’s comments.)

The aldermen’s Finance Committee has recommended that the full board adopt only an interim (one month) budget resolution this week.  That is because we are still waiting for the state legislature to adopt its budget for the year, including action on what revenues cities can expect to receive from the state in the coming year.  As I discussed in last month’s report, the city could lose as much as $7.6 million in state revenue reimbursements, depending on action by the legislature.  The sudden loss of that much previously routine revenue would make it impossible to balance the city’s budget without either a tax rate increase or extreme cuts in city services.  The board is likely to postpone adoption of a final budget and tax rate for the coming year until its first meeting in August, in the hope of more clarity by then on what we can expect from the state level.  If we postpone final budget action to August, we should also schedule a second public comment hearing for that August budget meeting.  The board is likely, however, to take final action this week on the various proposals for new fees and fee schedule changes.

“Talk of the Town” meeting:   About 70 people attended the mayor’s “Talk of the Town” meeting for the Southwest Ward last Tuesday night at the Little Creek Recreation Center.  As I expected, most of the comments and discussion revolved around either budget and fees questions, or the many traffic safety concerns throughout the ward.  I was pleased with the turnout and thoughtful questions and comments, and I’d like to again thank all of you who took time to participate in our discussion.

Constituent service notes:   June was another active month on traffic safety issues.  A public comment meeting was held Thursday night on possible routes for the realignment of Burke Mill Road to intersect with Atwood Road at Stratford Road.  City transportation staff were pleasantly surprised with the big turnout (100 plus) of residents to review and leave comments on the alternatives.  Word from staff was that the timetable calls for construction in 2004.  I’ve encouraged staff to take any reasonable steps available to speed up the construction of this traffic safety and efficiency project. 

At the request of myself and other concerned residents, staff looked into the long delays which have backed up traffic at the Miller Street and Cloverdale Avenue intersection.  They discovered several malfunctioning trip wires; replacement of these and adjustment of signal timing should take place within the next two weeks.

Staff are looking into what can be done to address speeding on Jonestown Road and on Knollwood Street, among other trouble spots.  Just a reminder:  The comprehensive review of “traffic calming” strategies is still scheduled for completion this fall.

Good news:  Complaints regarding a paving business illegally operating in a residential zone near McGregor Road have been pursued by city inspections staff, and the business has supposedly now completed its relocation. 

Bad news:  We’ve pursued complaints about night construction noise on Business 40 with the state Dept. of Transportation (DOT) through every means we could think of, without complete success.  The city unfortunately does not have the legal jurisdiction to limit construction work hours on state highway projects or to enforce its noise ordinance against them, and DOT has declined to do so voluntarily.  At this point, only the state legislature could overrule DOT’s refusal.  Under its present schedule, night construction work on this stretch should end by September.  They have agreed to attempt to keep the loudest activities out of the evening hours, but that does not include operation of the paving machines themselves.