By Roger Bloom | NB Indy
The City Council on Tuesday will seat a new member and select a new mayor, bringing to a close a tumultuous and challenging year for current Mayor Keith Curry and his council colleagues.
Rush Hill, the victor in a hard-fought election last month, will be sworn in to replace Don Webb on the council. Webb, who was a 33-year city employee and department head and served eight years on the council, was prevented by the city’s term limits from running again. (See 10 Questions with Webb on page 6.)
After that, the council will select a new mayor– presumably Mayor Pro Tem Mike Henn – to replace Curry.
Curry presided over an eventful year that began with a new city manager hitting the ground running and was highlighted by:
- a major fiscal crunch that required the council to make up tens of millions in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 budgets through cuts, an early retirement program and the raising of parking fees in the city,
- the letting of initial contracts and floating of a bond for the new Civic Center project, aided by a AAA designation from the three major bond rating companies,
- the opening of the new Oasis Senior Center on time and under budget,
- the departure of two department heads and reorganization of their departments, Building and Planning, to streamline permitting and other services,
- the privatization and contracting out of some city services, including street sweeping, beach cleanup and parking,
- revisions of the city’s zoning code and the City Charter,
- the completion of the Back Bay dredging project and advancement of the Rhine Channel project,
- the negotiation of agreements with group home operators that cut the number of beds in the city by 46 percent, and
- the renegotiation of contracts with city employees that will have them contributing to their pension plans for the first time.
Curry cannot take personal credit for these moves – the mayor serves as one of seven councilmemebers with the only formal extra responsibility being to chair council meetings, and many of these actions were months or years in the making.
“These area all group accomplishments,” Curry said this week. “They involved the entire City Council, the city manager and a dedicated city staff.”
He also singled out the city employees bargaining units for “really becoming partners in addressing the city’s fiscal issues.”
But Curry was instrumental in setting the respectful and businesslike tone of the council and to some extent in orchestrating the efforts of the other councilmembers and the city staff to further their goals.
And the year ended with the council moving to increase mooring fees in the Harbor – some of which had not been adjusted since 1996 – to current market rates, over the objections of the city’s sizable boating community.
“This council has had the courage to step up on fees,” Curry said, noting that the much-needed dredging of the Lower Bay is estimated at about $23 million.
“Eventually, the whole city will be contributing to that,” Curry said, “but it’s important that those who will most directly benefit make the first contributions.”
Tuesday’s council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.