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  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
  • City of Cambridge Maryland
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City Council Minutes

January 9, 2006

Cambridge Maryland Seal

 

The City Council met in regular session on Monday, January 9, 2006 Council Chambers. A quorum being present, Mayor Cleveland L. Rippons called the meeting to order at 7:15 p.m. Those Commissioners in attendance were Commissioners Knox, Sydnor, Cephas, Brooks, and Travers.

Ed Kinnamon led in the Lord's Prayer. Commissioner Travers led in the Pledge of Allegiance. Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the minutes of the December 27, 2005 Council meeting as distributed. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.

PROCLAMATION

Girl Scout Cookie Sale Program-Ed Kinnamon read the proclamation. Mayor Rippons signed it and presented it to Victoria Stanley, Co-Service Manager for Dorchester County. Several girl scouts also attended. Ms. Stanley encouraged everyone to support this worthwhile program. 

PUBLIC HEARING

Text Amendments to Sections 9 and 359 of the Zoning Code Regarding Sensitive Soils and Set-Back from Streams-Rob Collison said notice of tonight's public hearing was in Daily Banner on December 24 and 31, 2005 and January 5, 2006. A public hearing was held by the Planning and Zoning Commission which recommended adoption of the proposed amendments. The current wording of our zoning code does not delineate between manmade streams and natural streams. Without that distinction, you would have between a 1‑ and 300‑foot setback from a manmade drainage ditch. The intent was for natural streams outside the Critical Area. Anne Roane said there were a lot of ambiguities in the language of the ordinance. After a lot of research into what other counties did, they came up with a clarification which they feel strengthens the ordinance. The proposed amendment does not alter the setbacks from the true natural stream. It more clearly defines what a stream is. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to support this ordinance. Roby Hurley, the State Planner who advises them on Critical Area issues, was very instrumental in the research process. They feel it will be beneficial to everyone. The standard as to how a stream is determined to be a natural stream as opposed to a drainage ditch is based on the United States Geological Survey.  Nobody from the public had any questions or comments. Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the text amendments as stated. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously. Rob Collison said the text amendments will become effective 10 days from today.

 

APPOINTMENTS

Request from Fraternal Order of Police to Name Street After Officer Daniel Bier-Cpl. Thomas R. Hurley, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Cambridge Lodge #27 explained that on May 3, 1953, Officer Daniel Bier became the only Cambridge Police Officer to this date to be killed in the line of duty when he responded to a domestic complaint and was shot upon arrival. Their organization has not forgotten the full measure that he gave to the community. With all the growth they are seeing in Cambridge, they would like to ask the City to consider naming a street after Officer Bier in honor of the sacrifice that he made in the line of duty. Officer Bier was in his sixth year when he was shot on Goldsborough Avenue. Rob Collison suggested the street which will be created on the west side of the new public safety building. Mayor Rippons asked Ed Kinnamon to contact the adjacent property owners. Commissioner Cephas asked if the officer has received any other recognition. Cpl. Hurley said there is a small memorial in front of the police department that was placed there by the FOP and in the hallway of the police department, there is a framed photograph, newspaper article, and a plaque in memory of him. Mayor Rippons said he will keep Cpl. Hurley informed of the negotiations with the property owners.

Octavene Saunders to Discuss Street Lighting on Douglas Street in the Area of Mt. Olive Baptist Church (safety concern)-Mrs. Saunders said a few months back some members of their church came before Council requesting a lighter illumination lighting. She understands the request was mis-interpreted and instead of them getting lighter and brighter illumination which they still appreciate, they got more lights on telephone poles. Their request still stands. They appreciate what the city has done. They need brighter illumination as is on Bethel, Pine, and Cross Streets and Park Lane. Because of the trafficking and illegal activities on that block of Douglas Street, it would be more beneficial for safety and law enforcement if the lights were brighter. Chief Malik said he agrees that this would hold true throughout Cambridge. She understands that DPW is saying that this is not within their control but she doesn't think this is quite accurate. When she was a Commissioner their requests were answered within 60 days. They are asking for a commitment tonight that they will get brighter lighting for the safety of the older ladies who live on Douglas Street. The same consideration was given to Bethel Church. Commissioner Sydnor asked if Halogen lighting was being used in the city. Anne Roane said she is sitting in for David Pritchett on planning and zoning issues but she does not know about lighting. She will find out. Commissioner Cephas said he remembers when they came before Council and their concern was the brightness of the light. He personally rode around the city and looked at certain areas where the lights are much brighter. He discussed this with David Pritchett who thought they were talking about additional lights. Additional lights were placed on every pole on that street but they were not brighter lights. It did not make much of a difference.

Rev. Anthony Dickerson, Senior Pastor of Greater Mount Olive Full Gospel Baptist Church, said there is an urgency to have brighter lighting. They have several youth activities during the course of the week. They have several senior citizens that live on the street and since the weather is not extremely cold, the traffic has picked up. Last year, there was a police officer who ran into his office. Sometimes if his office light is not on, you will think that a house is not there. He thinks this could have occurred because the lighting is not that great. They need to act on this now before a tragedy occurs. They are in the planning stages for a 24‑hour day care facility. They would like to take care of this now so it will not be an issue.

Commissioner Cephas said he is on the lighting committee. He cannot give them a commitment tonight but he will discuss this with David Pritchett tomorrow because he knows that when they came to Council before, they talked about the illumination, not the number of lights.

Octavene Saunders said she is a little disappointed because the commitment does not cost you any more money. It tells them as a community the brighter lighting will be done because it is in the Council's control; not Delmarva Power. Commissioner Cephas said a commitment has been made to him by Public Works that this would be done. It has not been done. He doesn't want to commit for Public Work because David Pritchett is not here. He can assure them that he will be there tomorrow. Mr. Pritchett will be instructed to take care of the lighting. Commissioner Brooks said in the event there was a mis-communication, she made a motion to have the brighter illumination lights or Halogen lights on Douglas Street. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. Commissioner Knox said the city has a lease with Delmarva Power. He had to have lights replaced at his place of business. Choptank Electric put in a much duller light. He was told that it was more energy efficient and that the other ones don't exist anymore. He thinks that before Council makes a motion that they might no be able to have done, that they wait until they can speak to David Pritchett who will contact Delmarva Power to see if the brighter lights are available. Commissioner Cephas said when the commitment was made by DPW, prior to that he spoke to Mr. Fletcher, who works for Delmarva Power in Salisbury. They do have brighter lights. Mrs. Saunders said she knows the brighter lighting exists and that it can be done. The motion passed unanimously. Mrs. Saunders asked that Commissioner Cephas continue to talk to her Pastor on this or Deacon Wongus. The motion passed unanimously.

                 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

None

NEW BUSINESS

Request from Dorchester County Recreation & Parks Board to Hold an Easter Egg Hunt at Great Marsh Park on Saturday, April 8th at 11:00 am (Rain Date - April 9th at 2:00 pm)-Commissioner Travers made a motion to approve the request. Commissioner Knox seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Request for Extension of the Municipal Water System to Arbutus Terrace, Dogwood Drive Portion of Garden Estates Subdivision-Commissioner Knox made a motion to table the request until Rob Collison can research it further. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Approve Budget Amendment for CPD-Commissioner Knox made a motion to approve the budget amendment. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS

Commissioner Brooks said there are some houses currently being built on Oakley Street with really small spaces between them.  She asked Anne Roane to discuss the zoning. Anne Roane said if the houses are the ones Portia Johnson-Ennels was discussing with her in her office, they are zoned NC-4 which is a neighborhood conservation zone. Portia Johnson-Ennels and Commissioner Brooks said they are zoned R3 according to the permits. Anne Roane said there is nothing in violation. The permits issued are in keeping with the zoning ordinance. If there is an issue with the zoning ordinance, then it is a matter of changing the ordinance which is a legislative issue. The builder did not seek any relief for setbacks or anything else. They were permitted as a matter of right. Commissioner Brooks asked who is putting the homes up. Anne Roane said she does not have the paperwork but she thinks it is Lacrosse Homes. Mrs. Johnson has the paperwork in front of her. Commissioner Brooks asked for a clear understanding as to why there are certain areas in the city where you have 25-feet to 30-feet between houses and there are other sections where you only have 10 feet. If one house catches on fire, the others will also. She is talking about new developments-not the pre-existing homes. The homes she is referring to are on Camper Street and Oakley Street. Anne Roane said these are considered in-fill projects. They are not major subdivisions. A major subdivision is four lots or more. They were previously recorded lots which were recorded prior to the new zoning ordinance. Rob Collison said during the comprehensive rezoning, the consultants went into the existing neighborhoods and looked at the existing homes. They said historically the pattern has been with 12-foot or 24-foot setbacks. He thinks they tried to customize the future in-fill developments to be compatible with the existing acreage. The same issue arose at the other end of Oakley Street when they had talk about not permitting any further subdivision or building on empty lots. The housing may be larger but the requirements are very small. If wasn't changed because if you change it, then 90 percent of what is existing would be non-conforming. The NC zoning will always have something that is unique to that area. Across the street where they came in for re-zoning, that would be different. Anne Roane said she believes the NC zones were created to address in-fill projects on lots that previously had houses on them. They were created to protect the character of the communities that are around them, so that whatever is built around them is compatible. Commissioner Brooks asked if someone on the 900 block of Pine Street were to tear down a house, would they be able to rebuild it. Anne Roane said they could. Commissioner Brooks said that is not the message that has been given to the people in the past.  They were told that because of the new zoning regulations, the lot is too small to rebuild. That is what everybody has been told. Now she is hearing something different. Rob Collison said there could be a case when something is demolished or burned and it would not comply with the NC zoning. You may not be able to build the exact same type of house because the lot could be too small. Anne Roane said there are provisions in the ordinance to allow you to build on lots where a home was torn down or burned. Each case has to be reviewed separately. The ordinance supports redevelopment.  She understands what Portia Johnson-Ennels is saying. If they don't want that area to be redeveloped the way it was, there is an opportunity for you to ask for a text amendment.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said there is something wrong with the permit. The date of the application was November 16, 2004. The date of approval was March 30, 2005. Under notes it says "This permit expires six months from the date approved if work is not sufficiently commenced." The work did not start until 2006. Therefore, the permit is no good. Anne Roane said she will refer it to David Pritchett. Portia Johnson-Ennels said the owner is called Rig Holdings LLC and the permit is for single-family homes. The contractor is Lacrosse Homes with an identical address and telephone number as the developer. She said the permits are no good so no work should have commenced on that property and they have laid five foundations.  She grew up with houses close like that. When they did the rezoning and walked around with Mr. Johnston, they asked that they not have those types of homes built even though there were existing plats before. That was one of the main things requested under the rezoning. The city spent a lot of money getting the zoning done and for some reason in some parts of the city it says is height and other parts it says width and in other parts they really don't care-whatever you put there-live with it. That is what is happening on Greenwood Avenue which is formerly Oakley Street but is now being named Greenwood Avenue. She asked if a stop order can be done. Mayor Rippons said it can if they are not in compliance.

Octavene Saunders said she went around with Mrs. Johnson and maybe on a piece of paper they put down all the fancy wording, but that wasn't the conversation. When they were on Charles Street, the conversation was that in other areas they could spread out, but on Charles Street, Camper Street, Park Lane, Saunders Avenue, Oakley Street and Greenwood Avenue, they go up. They made it very clear to the Council member, the developers, and the consultant that they did not want any more houses that they could stand between and touch the outside walls of each house because of fire and safety. The explanation sounds good on paper, but in person that is not what they said. The materials may meet the city standards, but if you look at them they are matchbox houses and they are too close together.  She is asked that a stop work order be put out immediately until this is settled and these houses do not need to have any more permits in the Second, Third, and Fourth Ward built close together. They need to revisit the zoning and take them on a case-by-case basis.

Rob Collison asked about the update to the comprehensive plan. Anne Roane said the RFP draft, which is fairly substantial, is going to be distributed to the Planning Commission tomorrow night. She is requested that they get comments back to her by the February meeting so she can address the comments and distribute it to the Council. She is hoping they can send it out for response and award the contract to the consultant by the end of March at the latest. This will be a perfect time to address these kinds of issues.

Commissioner Brooks said many constituents have come to her questioning Oakley Street, now known as Greenwood Avenue, and Charles Street and Camper Street. She has not been given any information about these developments taking place and what is going on. They also asked why there is different zoning for the Second Ward vs. different wards. Anne Roane suggested they call her any time and she will be glad to discuss it. Rob Collison said several years back, they used to provide Council with copies of building permits that were issued. Anne Roane said they could do that again. She tried to keep them informed as far as the subdivisions and what is in the process. Rob Collison said it sounds like these are lots of record. If they are not asking for any variances, the Planning and Zoning Commission will never see it and neither will the Council. Anne Roane said it is not a matter of keeping them in the dark, it is a matter that there is nothing in the process that makes them bring it to Council.

Jane Devlin said WECA was involved when the consultant was in the area for the comprehensive rezoning. She was not part of the organization but she has heard from board members about the discussions. They agreed with what Mrs. Saunders said. When the original intent came through for the neighborhood conservation, it was to preserve what we had in whatever ward. The intent was to apply it to existing structures. When the draft when through to Council, it was across the board.  This issue came up about two years ago. On Willis Street and West End Avenue, you have houses pretty much on top of each other. She thinks with the update to the comprehensive plan, it is the time to have a large open discussion because all the wards are affected. She has discussed this numerous times at the Planning and Zoning Commission. She spoke to Dwight Cromwell and Jerry Burroughs when the issue came up on Camper Street. She re-iterated that it is the same issue they had in the first ward.

Octavene Saunders asked if Anne Roane was saying that they had no obligation of supplying Council with permits, etc. Anne Roane said there is nothing in the ordinance that addresses the process of how something is reviewed. Octavene Saunders said the Council members are the bosses of the department heads. If they say they want a copy of every new business license in the city every three months, or new house permits, they are the bosses and they are supposed to get it. As Council members, they need to know what is going on in their ward.

Commissioner Brooks said prior to the Council meeting, they had a discussion as to what department head would be the liaison for the various departments. Ed Kinnamon read the list.

  • Commissioner Travers - City Hall
  • Commissioner Sydnor - Department of Public Works
  • Commissioner Brooks - Cambridge Police Department
  • Commissioner Knox - Cambridge Emergency Medical Services
  • Commissioner Cephas - Rescue Fire Company & Municipal Utilities Commission

Commissioner Brooks made a motion to accept the liaison appointments as stated. Commissioner Sydnor seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously.

Commissioner Brooks said at the last meeting they discussed having the Special Elections Committee sit with verifying the names of the signatures on the petition concerning a small portion of the personnel duties of the Mayor. She made a motion that the Special Election Committee, not only be allowed to sit but be allowed to participate with this process as they verify the signatures and the names and whether or not they are registered voters in the city. Commissioner Cephas seconded the motion. Rob Collison clarified that they will be assisting the Supervisor of Elections and his staff. Guinervere Banks asked if they had enough signatures. Mayor Rippons said they will determine that tomorrow. At 4:30 pm today, all petitions were locked in the safe. They will be given to Mr. Gootee tomorrow. Commissioner Sydnor said that Council has been advised that there were approximately 1500 signatures. Mayor Rippons said predicated on correspondence with the people soliciting petitions, he believes it should be in the neighborhood of 1400 or 1500. Mr. Gootee has asked ten election judges to assist him. They will meet in close proximity to the Dorchester County election office. Octavene Saunders asked about the special election. Mayor Rippons said the Council has two options. The first option can stipulate that there will be no election at this time and it will take place at the next general election for the city (in 2½ years). If they elect that option, the request that those duties by removed is reverted. It will go back with the Mayor's duties as they are now. The other option is to have a motion that the special election will take place and it must take place within 40 to 60 days after the petitions are certified. Octavene Saunders asked about the cost of a special election. Mayor Rippons said Mr. Gootee will give Council a figure very soon. The motion passed unanimously.

Commissioner Brooks said at the very last meeting, they asked Rob Collison about the procedure for anyone who wanted to remove their name from a petition that they had signed if they had signed it under false pretenses. Many people stated that they had been given false information and that is why they signed the petition. A small bit of that is that all the Mayor's duties were being taken away from him which is not true. It is absolutely false. It is a very small portion of the personnel duties that prior to 2000, the Mayor did not have. At that time the Mayor did not ask the citizens for a vote. He just had his Commissioners elect to make him head of personnel. Now to remove this and revert it back to the way it was prior to 2000, the Mayor sees fit that we should have a vote. These are not the same standards that he used in 2000. Anyone who wants to remove their name from the petition can do so in writing. It must be given it to Mr. Kinnamon prior to certification. The certification date is unclear. She suggested that if anyone wanted to remove their name, they should do it as soon as possible.  

Gage Thomas said when the Council voted to give the Mayor the duties in 2000, he assumes the same procedure that just happened here today was in place then. Had the citizens wished to not give the Mayor those duties, they could have circulated a petition and called for a referendum. Commissioner Brooks said the citizens did not circulate the petition; the Mayor did. He did not circulate one in 2000. Rob Collison said it is a State process that has not changed. Commissioner Brooks said the process was not applied in 2000. There was no petition given to the citizens asking them if they wished that the Mayor become head of personnel. Gage Thomas said it is not a germane point who initiated the petition.  Commissioner Brooks said in this particular case, the Mayor initiated it and he could have initiated one in 2000.

Commissioner Cephas said it is his understanding that the petitions are locked in a safe at the present time. They will be removed tomorrow. It is also his understanding that they are not sealed. He made a motion that when Mr. Gootee picks up the petitions, that the envelope be sealed, taped, and a name be written across the seal and then taken wherever they are to be taken. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Jamal Pinder asked Mayor Rippons what it is about his powers that he wants back. Mayor Rippons said the premise is not about him. He asked if Mr. Pinder read the article he had published in the local newspapers. His concern as it was brought to him by hundreds of people is not his powers. It is a fact that this document that is being changed, the City Charter, parallels on a local level, the Constitution of the United States. It is a dynamic document that should it be changed because of its very nature, a vote to change it should be predicated on the voice of the people-not the voice of a 3:2 vote of Council. That is his concern. It is an expression that the people should come forward with their vote. They may express that they do want the power removed.

Commissioner Sydnor said this is the same germane document that was changed in 2000 and yet it could be changed without the people's vote. Mayor Rippons said the people had a right at that time to ask for a vote.

Jamal Pinder asked when the Council has ever asked for a vote by the people.

Victoria Stanley said she did not get a petition. She asked who was sent the petitions or was the city canvassed a certain way. Commissioner Sydnor said the petition originated with Rob Collison and was delivered to Mayor Rippons. From there the copies were distributed. Victoria Stanley asked who they were sent to and the rationale for sending it to one person and not another. Mayor Rippons said when he received them, he did not send them anywhere. People contacted him and said they had an interest in helping him. They asked for petitions. The people who took them canvassed various neighborhoods.

Octavene Saunders asked if there was a process as to who can initiate the petition. Rob Collison said it is for qualified registered voters in the city. Octavene Saunders said then anybody can initiate a petition.  Rob Collison said there are several petitions for referendum that are permitted by State law. They are annexations and charter amendments. A charter amendment is read at least two times then approved by the Council. By State law it has to be advertised in the newspaper for three or four successive weeks. It becomes effective the 50th day after it is approved unless on or before the 40th day after the approval, a petition submitted by at least 20 percent of the qualified registered voters within the city is presented to the city requesting a referendum.  Octavene Saunders said if she wanted to see a Commissioner impeached or removed, she just needs to be a registered voter. Rob Collison said our charter does not have an impeachment procedure. Octavene Saunders said we need one. Rob Collison said if they want to change the charter to have an impeachment or recall petition, not only could the City Council propose a charter resolution but she could petition to have a charter resolution by twenty percent of the registered voters and take it to referendum. That could change the charter. There is a procedure that allows the registered voters of a city to implement the process for a new charter amendment of any type.  Octavene Saunders asked if a citizen would like to see an impeachment process entered into the charter, how they would go about it. Rob Collison said they could convince a majority of the Council to present a charter resolution that outlines it. If they do not get the support of the existing Council they could go through the petition process. If they get at least 20 percent of the qualified registered voters to sign the petition calling for that addition to the charter, it would then be taken to referendum.

James Cornish said Mayor Rippons said people who wanted petitions contacted him in reference to the petition. Rumor has been going around that he had petitions for the Mayor to sign. He did not contact Mayor Rippons and ask him for petitions. He met with Mayor Rippons and Matt Corbliss a while back and Mayor Rippons presented him with two petitions at that time. He did not ask for them and he did not solicit any names nor did he sign any names on the petitions. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have one petition and Commissioner Brooks has the other one. Commissioner Brooks said she and Mr. Cornish had a more detailed conversation about it.

William Wallace, Pastor of Waugh Chapel United Methodist Church, said he read the Mayor's article in the newspaper and listed to him articulate his concern for the concern for the sanctity of the charter. He asked if he is so concerned about the sanctity and saving the charter, why did he not put the same type of issue before the public in 2000 when he was given the personnel rights and decision powers.

Mayor Rippons said he believes in the sanctity of what the people said. In 2000 or 2001 the vast majority of the people conversing with him were in favor of the issue. In 2005, the vast majority of the people convinced him that they were not in favor of it. That is the distinction. Anyone who did not believe in that premise in 2000 could have circulated a petition.

Rev. Wallace said his concern is that while Mayor Rippons says he listens to his constituency and the persons that are in the majority, he has avergated the constitution that gives the persons who are in the minority an opportunity to vote on an issue.  Every person has a right to vote. If you are going to apply that law, let's be consistent with it. Don't change it because it is favorable to you or because you have talked to five people at the American Legion. Let everyone have an opportunity to vote on it. He is insulted by the fact that Mayor Rippons has taken it upon himself to deny him his constitutional right to vote by saying he listened to 100 people and they said they don't want his powers taken away. Let him vote and make the decision.  

Mayor Rippons said he never took anybody's right to vote away from them. Anybody had the same rights as he did to say he thinks something is detrimental enough that he wants to start a petition. Anybody could have done it. He took the initiative this time to do something unique that was not done in 2000. Rev. Wallace said Mayor Rippons said his premise was the context of the constitution.  As a person who is not part of the political machinery around here, it is very hard to get some documents from some people around here. Part of that is because the Mayor tells people what to release and what not to release. Speaking of rumors, people are saying that Mayor Rippons has promised to reward people for getting signatures.

Gage Thomas said he doesn't think anything was taken away. The petition is nothing more than to put it to a vote. The referendum is to let the people decide.

Tony Thomas said he had petitions in his store.  When the Mayor was re-elected, they voted him in on what he has done in the past. They have gotten more done in the last six years than has been done in the last 20 years. If you are talking about anybody getting favors, he got six stop work orders.

Commissioner Brooks asked the press how many articles the Mayor put in the paper in 2000 informing the public that they personnel powers were going to be given to him and were going to be voted on. Now check out how many articles have been put in the paper when it is in the reverse. When he says he did the same in 2000 as he did in 2005, that is absolutely untrue. Mayor Rippons said he didn't say he did the same, he said he took the initiative this time.

Octavene Saunders said when she left the Council, the Mayor and Council had personnel powers. The former mayor, because of some of the things like those that are going on now with personnel, wished to give up that aspect of personnel powers. She thinks Rob Collison took care of the changes. The Mayor made it public that he no longer wanted the personnel powers because of certain constraints. She did not know that this mayor had the personnel powers until an African-American had a problem on the garbage truck a few months after he got into office and the person asked her a question. She suggested that the person follow the personnel manual that Miles & Stockbridge wrote for them and then the Mayor has to let the whole Council in on it.  The gentleman told her that if they don't do what the Mayor says now, he's got the power. She asked Commissioner Weldon, and he said the Mayor now has personnel power. She never would have known it if this person didn't have a job problem. She never heard it was done at the Council table like Mr. Wooten did.

Mary Wright asked if the 3:2 vote had gone in Mayor Rippons' favor, would the petition still have been circulated. Mayor Rippons said it would have been predicated on what the people who contacted him would have said. Commissioner Brooks said in November when they had the vote and it was 3:2, petitions were not circulated.

Commissioner Cephas said he agrees in part with Tony Thomas. He thinks people seem to misunderstand certain things. The Mayor is not doing anything by himself. He cannot even vote on issues. No man is an island. The Council is a team. If it goes to referendum, the citizens are going to vote. He has a problem with rumors that people are being compensated for signatures. People have come to him and said they have been promised X dollars for signatures. They have been promised special favors as far as a permit if they circulate petitions. He will give the Mayor and everybody else the benefit of the doubt and say it probably didn't happen. As a result of this petition, this city is divided. They talk about setting this city back 20 years. There are people in the room who have helped set the city back. There have been racial problems for many years. He didn't like the racial divide then, and he doesn't like what he sees now. There is a way to handle any petition for referendum. He is tired about negative things being said about the Council. He will support the Mayor as long as he is doing the right thing for the betterment of the city. He asked the public to let the Commissioners know if they are wrong. We don't need to let a petition divide this community.

Rev. Wallace said the issue is not a matter of the petition. The issue is the inequity and the inconsistency of what brought about the petition. We all want to have our way but there are times when we will not be able to get our way. As public leaders, we should have access to the process after something happens, they should also help the public understand the process before it happens. The tone or spirit of the Mayor's article is such a way that Commissioners Cephas, Sydnor, and Brooks are the troublemakers in the city and have created this mess.  The Mayor is saying he hasn't done anything wrong. Had he known that the charter would have allowed him an opportunity to speak and send forth a referendum so the Mayor would not have those powers, he would have been the first person utilizing that. This country is based on freedom and democracy. This is an insult through the amendments that give persons an opportunity to vote. Next year we will have an issue coming before the government. It is not the Voting Rights Act that is in jeopardy.  It is those provisions such that folk won't take advantage of people who are "ignorant" as to what their voter rights are. We have persons who are saying the Mayor has promised to do this if they get X number of signatures for him. We have some serious concerns that need to be dealt with. He will not allow this kind of insult be done to the voters of this city.

Jamal Pinder asked when a new mayor is put into office, does he automatically have the right to decide if he has the hiring powers. Rob Collison said only if he can convince three Commissioners to initiate a charter resolution and it passes. He has no vote in it. Other than vetoing an ordinance, the Mayor has very few powers. We have a very strong Commissioner-based charter. In 2000, Commissioner Atkinson was the lead proponent of giving the Mayor the personnel powers. He used Salisbury as an example. Council approved it and the advertising ran.

Jamal Pinder said his problem with one person having that kind of power is that if an employee had a problem on the job and it came across the Mayor's desk and the Mayor didn't like him anyway, this is something the Mayor could do. It could also work that if someone votes for the person, he could make sure a son gets a job. That is why he has a problem with anybody having exclusive powers of hiring and firing.

Octavene Saunders said when she was kicked out of office, two things bothered her once she learned the Mayor had personnel powers. Deborah Camper was the first and only African-American qualified department head in the city. She was let go for no big reason. It has bothered her ever since until the day she tried to find out why the woman was let go. There was a Caucasian lady working in Mr. Kinnamon's office that she saw got hired, and she was drummed out. No reason was given. At that point, the Mayor had exclusive personnel powers. People will have a process to go through if the Mayor keeps it or he doesn't keep it. If people who loose a job feel they did not do wrong, they will go through the whole process. If we keep an open mind, we will get justice. Her concern is she knows about these two positions. After eight years, she is trying to find out why these two women were let go.  Deborah Camper is licensed to practice law in three states. She stuck to the book and knew what she was doing. She had a difficult employee that Mr. Kinnamon had and Chief Wroten had and she whipped that employee in shape. All of a sudden, that African-American woman who had been here over 17 years was cut back then given some kind of deal that she did not have a choice and she was let go. There is danger in power.

Portia Johnson-Ennels said it doesn't matter who is sitting in that seat. To her it is saying that personnel powers should not be in the office of the Mayor. It is nothing personal and what it has become is a personal thing. It could be anybody. What has happened in this community has set us back 50 years because of this one issue. Some of the people who signed the petition do not even live in the city. One young man taking the petition around is illiterate. He didn't understand when someone questioned him about what he was doing. Any petitions that he turned in should be invalid.

Rob Collison announced that the Council met in closed executive session at 6:30 pm to discuss personnel matters, the consideration of new businesses locating within the city, and some legal advice.

Rob Collison announced that Council wished to cancel the work session next week due to a conflict in schedule. Ed Kinnamon said a government meeting has come up that night. Commissioner Brooks said it was also because they had not received any response.

Commissioner Brooks said regarding the work session on January 17th, there is a conflict with another meeting that Council has to be at in Queen Anne's County. Portia Johnson-Ennels said it was her understanding that there was no need to respond to the public meeting. The notice would be put in the paper and the meeting would be open to the public. Commissioner Brooks said they did not know about the meeting in Queen Anne's County until tonight.

Commissioner Cephas said in spite of everything that has been said tonight, this government is not for sale.

Commissioner Brooks thanked everyone for participating in the discussions tonight. This is the kind of discussion she hopes to have at the work sessions.

Commissioner Travers thanked everyone for coming tonight. He was the only Commissioner who voted for the Mayor to have his power. He said Cambridge has moved ahead in the last five years. It has been a pleasant time for the city and all of its citizens. We will soon be having a new place to eat near Ace Hardware maybe sooner than you think.

Ed Kinnamon asked if Council wanted to discuss the packet of information from Bill Watkins. Commissioner Brooks suggested discussing it during the next meeting.

Chief Malik asked Council for permission to go to bid for the Fourth of July fireworks. In the past it has been $20,000. Ed Kinnamon said Council has budgeted $15,000 and the County usually gives them $5,000. Commissioner Travers made a motion to allow CPD to go to bid for fireworks with a cost not to exceed $20,000. Commissioner Brooks seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously.

Mayor Rippons announced that the city applied for a grant to help the Harriet Tubman Organization with replacing the roof on their museum. The city offered to provide $5900 in cash and $1200 in-kind. A total of $14,200 was requested. We have been notified that the grant has been approved. The city will be the recipient in the amount not to exceed $7100 from the Maryland Heritage Area. To expedite everything, he asked for a motion so DPW can move forward with the bidding process. Commissioner Cephas made a motion to have DPW move forward. Commissioner Travers seconded the motion. The motion passed unanimously. Evelyn Townsend thanked the Council.

James Edward Cornish Jr., Vice President of the Dorchester County Aids Foundation, said he had information to present to Council at a later date. On December 10th the Foundation sponsored a banquet honoring Ambia Hooper as Director of the Year for the Eastern Shore. He thanked the city for the proclamation they provided.

 

With no further business, Mayor Rippons adjourned this portion of the meeting at 9:06 p.m. I hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate account of the Council meeting Monday, January 9, 2006, insofar as I personally am aware.

Edwin C. Kinnamon

Clerk & Treasurer