With more city buildings, including police and fire stations, falling into disrepair, the struggle between Mayor Street and City Council over funding repairs took a turn for the worse yesterday.
In December, Council passed a bill to provide $30 million in surplus operating money to be split evenly among the police, fire and recreation departments for capital improvements.
Yesterday, Street allowed the bill to become law without his signature, but said he won't spend a dime of the money on needed repairs chiefly because the money is already spoken for.
Council President Anna Verna, a sponsor of the bill, said Street's action was "very disappointing."
But Street in his written message to Council said he did favor two bills authored by Councilman Darrell Clarke that would earmark $10.5 million for police- and fire-station repairs. A hearing on those bills is set for Jan. 31.
For more than two years Street and Council have battled over the capital budget, which has not had a new infusion of voter-approved bond money since fall 2004.
Joyce Wilkerson, Street's chief of staff, said there are 185 ready-to-go projects worth $61 million that are stalled. Capital funds are so depleted that the city is doing little more than life and safety repairs, including some planning work on a South Street Bridge project.
"It's a triage process that's happening now," Wilkerson said. "We look at the most dangerous things that need repair, and they go to the head of the pile and something else drops back."
In the past, the 10 district Council members were given about $1.2 million for recreation projects in their districts. But Street said the capital budget has shrunk so much that he can no longer provide that much, offering instead $500,000 per district.
Yesterday, Clarke introduced legislation that would speed up a $129 million bond authorization for fiscal years 2006 and 2007, saying, "I don't want to be in a position where we go another year squabbling over whether or not we are going to spend capital funds."
His bills would provide at least $850,000 per member. But Verna said that number has already been offered by the mayor and rejected by Council. Clarke noted that Council has three new members who might favor a deal, thus providing the needed 12 votes for passage of a bond bill.
In other business:
* Council unanimously approved a Clarke bill to prohibit the city from collecting a $65 towing charge from the owner of a stolen vehicle that has been recovered and stored at an impound lot. The administration estimated that it collects about $400,000 through the city portion of the towing charge.
* Citing the school district's low graduation rate, Councilman Wilson Goode Jr. introduced a bill to shift an estimated $100 million in property-tax revenue from city coffers to the School Reform Commission in the next five years. Goode wants to increase the share of property tax revenue the schools get, which is now 58 percent. He proposes a 60-40 split between the schools and the city.
* Councilman Brian O'Neill introduced his version of a plan to create a Zoning Code Commission that would revamp the city's 40-year-old zoning code. But unlike City Councilman Frank DiCicco's version of the proposal, to create a 29-member commission with members selected by the mayor and City Council, O'Neill wants the City Planning Commission to comprise the membership of the Zoning Code Commission.
O'Neill said DiCicco's approach could become a "developer-driven commission." DiCicco disputed that, saying, "My approach has broad community support including many community-development corporations."