Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Jackson City Council President Frank Bluntson considered putting off the council's required election for president at this morning's meeting but reluctantly went ahead with the vote after the city's legal team said the council would be violating state law if they did not act today.
The Council voted 3 to 2 to keep Bluntson as its president with Ward 2 Councilman Chokwe Lumumba and Ward 6 Councilman Tony Yarber voting in opposition. Bluntson wanted to put off the vote this morning due to the absence of Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell and Ward 3 Council Kenneth Stokes. Bluntson said Stokes was in the hospital but did not state why.
State law requires the council to hold an election for a new president every year during its first regular meeting in July. The council has elected Bluntson to serve as president for the past two years.
While debating whether to hold the election, council members asked the city's legal team about the ramifications of not holding the vote. Deputy City Attorney James Anderson was unable to obtain an opinion from the Mississippi Attorney General's office during the meeting but said council members could be subject to a lawsuit.
"Someone, or an organization with legal standing can file for a court to mandate an election," Anderson said.
Back to Bonds
Bluntson asserted his authority as president yesterday and pulled a resolution from the council agenda to restructure the city's bond debt and save approximately $6 million over the next two years.
Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. and his financial team attempted to brief the council yesterday during a work session about restructuring the debt, but Bluntson said he felt uncomfortable with the mayor briefing the council less than 24 hours before it would vote on the item. He also expressed concern that Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon, Stokes and Whitwell were absent from the work session.
"I didn't know anything about this until Friday. Why do we have to wait to the last minute to have these briefings?" Bluntson asked the mayor.
Johnson appeared to lose patience with Bluntson for repeatedly stating that the mayor had waited until the last minute to tell the council about the deal.
"I have no problem pulling this," Johnson said. "I have no problem doing whatever you want to do, but don't tell me we are waiting to the last minute to do something when that's not the case."
In August 2010, Johnson told city Council members that his administration had hired financial advisor Porter Bingham of the Malachi Group to help close the city's projected deficit of $48.5 million by 2015.
"One of the recommendations was to restructure existing bond debt in order to realize some savings that would provide some relief while our local economy was able to recover," Johnson told council members in August.
In August 2010, the council voted in favor of a restructuring plan, but it must vote this month on a final resolution to authorize the plan to meet a Sept. 1 payment deadline. The city must go through several procedures including receiving a bond rating and reselling existing bonds by the time the payment is due, Johnson said.
Last month, Johnson placed the item on the agenda but said he had to remove it because the city did not have a certification to show that it had enough money to cover the debt service.
"Now that certificate has been made and we feel comfortable moving forward with it," Johnson said yesterday.
The Jackson Free Pres reported in August that the city would begin incurring $1 million in annual fees for the debt service starting in 2015. The mayor, however, has not made the terms of the final refinancing agreement public. Johnson supplied the council with documents regarding the final plan this morning.
"We don't want to give the impression that we are trying to force something down people's throats, although I've said this is the third time we have brought this before the council," Johnson said.
Council members rescheduled the briefing for 4 p.m. July 18. After the briefing, they will vote on the final resolution.
Lumumba, who voted against the restructuring plan in August, said he did not want to rush his decision on such a complicated and important vote.
"I think it make sense but I'm not sure it's the best thing," He said. "... I don't think a vote like this you can bring on a Friday and vote on a Tuesday. This was discussed conceptually early on ... but the specifics of this proposal have not been discussed."
Also see: City Balances Budget by Refinancing Debt>
I swear Kenny Stokes finds more ways to not show up for work than anyone else in America. Not a surprise at all that Lumumba didn't back Bluntson.
If Stokes truly is/was in the hospital, then I'll give him a pass on that. Otherwise, I'd agree about not showing up.
- golden eagle