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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Anthony Foxx's "Rookie" Bailout Idea vs Charlotte City Council (Harry Jones)

Anthony Foxx's Bail-Out Proposal For Charlotte-Mecklenburg Is Uncertain, Most City Council Members Say No

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has proposed that the city give schools and libraries a one-time financial bailout, but city staff isn't working on a rescue plan and some council members said they don't see any momentum behind the idea.

"There hasn't been any formal or behind-the scenes discussions about it," said Charlotte City Council member Patrick Cannon. "We have to get our own ducks in a row."

On April 26, Libraries Director Charles Brown met Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton and managers of other Mecklenburg municipalities and asked them for $3 million total to stave off some library closings.

If the libraries received that cash, along with $5 million from Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, Brown said he could keep from closing 12 library branches in early July.

Brown said two members of the library board also met with Foxx and asked the mayor for the same financial help. Brown said he hoped the towns could donate $1 million and the city of Charlotte give $2 million.

The city didn't discuss the request at its May 3 workshop. On May 12, during a budget meeting, Foxx floated the idea of helping the county, even though it technically wasn't the city's responsibility.

Anthony Foxx said he was uncomfortable with a proposal to spend $6.1 million to give city employees a 2 percent raise when the county was making such steep cuts.

The council's three Republican members are against giving the raises, and Republican Edwin Peacock suggested the money be placed in contingency. Six members voted to discuss that option further, and council members will take a straw vote on the idea on Wednesday.

Peacock said he might support Foxx's proposal to help the county.

"Under these dire times, how can we not consider lending a hand and throwing them a line on this one occasion?" Peacock said in an e-mail Friday.

But Walton said Friday that his staff hasn't done any work on financial assistance "because council didn't ask us to." He said the council only directed him to consider placing the $6.1 million in reserve - not to possibly give money to the county.

Curt Walton has been cool to the idea of bailing out the county, and has said the city must concentrate on the services it must provide. The city's budget is in far better shape than the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County budget, in part because the city saved more money to pay off debt.

Anthony Foxx said Thursday that there is still work being done to possibly help the county.

He said help would have to include other Mecklenburg towns. It would also have to be for one year only, and be targeted so city taxpayers could see a direct benefit.

Foxx said he has been speaking with Mecklenburg County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts.

Roberts said Friday that the county hasn't put together a formal request for help, though she said the library system has had a pending request for several weeks.

Brown said he has had two additional meetings with the town managers but that Walton wasn't able to attend. He says time is running out.

Mecklenburg County adopts its budget June 15. The city has a public hearing on its budget Monday. The City Council's final budget vote is June 7.

He said July 3 is the tentative date to close the 12 branches. After the closings, Brown said six regional libraries would remain open, as well as ImaginOn and the Main Library uptown. Hours and services would be reduced at those locations.

It's unclear if and when the City Council might consider any financial help.

Several council members insist that city employees get raises, which would make it difficult to use that $6.1 million to help the county.

Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess said on May 12: "Libraries are a county function, not a city function. It's not fair to the people of Charlotte."

Anthony Foxx Seeks To Bail Out His Buddy Harry Jones

Anthony Foxx wants to bail out his buddy Harry Jones.

That's right Charlotteans your eyes did NOT deceive you!

Newly elected Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx is attempting to use millions in City funding to help bail out his good friend Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones.

You know the same Harry Jones who gladly accepted a whopping $38,000. Bonus last year while denying the rest of Charlotte-Mecklenburg county employees a Cost of Living Increase.

The same Harry Jones who due to poor financial management allowed Charlotte-Meck.'s DSS Department employees to embezzle more than $162,000. in Federal Funds intended for Foster Care children.

Yes! That Harry Jones!

I wonder what kind of "Dirt" Harry Jones has on some of these North Carolina Politicians?

Didn't I warn you about Charlotte becoming the new "Dirty South?"

My publishing these type of posts can perhaps explain why some Charlotte Politicians are trying to get rid of me or shut me up.

Doesn't this all sound like more Corruption and another case of "Pay for Play" politics?

I don't know read on then you tell me.

Let's keep praying for God to put the right kind of Leaders in Public Office.

Vote Responsibly in 2010 & 2012!

On yesterday I read an article published by the Charlotte Observer (nickname: "Charlotte Disturber") which states Charlotte City Council members voted NOT to give City Employees a raise including Police & Firefighters, but will instead give millions of dollars to the County.

How is it that last fall Charlotte City Council members voted to give City Manager Curt Walton & City Attorney Mac McCarley FAT raises (totaling $31,000) but yet can't come to terms about granting City employees well-deserved raises when they haven't had a Cost of Living increase in several years?

And why are City officials giving the County money when they have wasted so much in the past?

Remember last year's Charlotte DSS "Fraudgate"?

Remember Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones' FAT $38,000 Bonus?

City employees can hardly pay for their Health benefits yet council members are throwing money away to the County??

Is this a Political move to save their seats or what?

We'd like for them to explain why because inquiring minds want to know.

This stinks to high heaven!

I'll remind you going forward to please vote intelligently and responsibly.

Raises For Charlotte City Workers Could Be Cut But Not Bonuses

Raises for City of Charlotte employees could be cut for the upcoming fiscal year, with the money possibly placed in contingency or given to Charlotte-Mecklenburg County to stave off steep cuts to libraries and schools.

Six City Council members - of 10 who attended a workshop Wednesday - voted to consider not giving the raises, which would cost the city $6.1million.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, said that he's uncomfortable giving even modest 2 percent raises when hundreds of teachers could be laid off and libraries closed.

The city isn't responsible for funding libraries or Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

"I think we need to think about those net reductions," Foxx said. "Will they have a permanent impact?"

In his concern about raises, Foxx was joined by the council's Republican minority.

Republican council member Warren Cooksey proposed not giving the raises and then giving Charlotte residents a small decrease in property taxes - equal to $5 annual savings on a house with a $200,000 tax value. Cooksey said it was important to give some money back to residents, who will probably face increases in their fixed rates for water and sewer usage.

Cooksey's proposal didn't receive enough votes to move forward.

But Republican Edwin Peacock's proposal to cut the raises and place the money in contingency did get six votes - Republicans Cooksey, Peacock and Andy Dulin, and Democrats Patrick Cannon, Michael Barnes and Nancy Carter. Foxx's proposal to give the county one-time financial help will be discussed under that plan.

Carter is a staunch proponent of giving city employees a pay increase. She's worried that their cost of living is going up, due to having to pay higher health insurance premiums. But she voted with the five for a "discussion."

The city's budget is in much better shape than Mecklenburg County's. That's due, in part, to the city being more conservative as to how much debt it assumed. At the start of the budget process earlier this year, the city had a shortfall of roughly $10 million in a $500 million operating budget.

City Manager Curt Walton proposed a number of small cuts, such as reducing the staffing hours at the 311 call center and suspending installation of new streetlights.

The city also proposed giving employees a raise, in part because the private sector is beginning to rebound and some companies are giving raises again.

Dulin said he didn't think the city would be at a competitive disadvantage if it didn't give raises for fiscal 2011 after not giving them in fiscal 2010.

"I don't agree we will lose employees," he said. "I can't support pay raises for them now."

Help for libraries

Facing a possible $17 million cut, the cash-strapped library system has proposed that local municipalities chip in to close to deficit.

Foxx proposed that the city could put up a certain amount of money and ask that the county's other towns match its efforts. He said it would be like a "challenge grant."

He said the money wouldn't necessarily have to come from the same pot of money saved by not giving raises. He said the city could shift money from capital funds.

It's unclear if there is political support for such a plan.

Council members Carter, Patsy Kinsey, David Howard and Susan Burgess were strong advocates Wednesday of giving raises.

Said Burgess: "Libraries are a county function, not a city function. It's not fair to the people of Charlotte."

Peacock countered that residents have trouble differentiating between city and county government.

"People view us as one," Peacock said. "They don't know that this is a county library. They just know that they are picking up a book. I support the mayor's idea on this."

The council will discuss Foxx's and Peacock's proposals May 26 when it takes straw votes on items for the budget, which will be approved in June.

Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton Receives $16,000 Bonus

Charlotte City Manager Curt Walton this summer cut pay raises and merit-based bonuses for city employees due to the recession.

On Monday night, the Charlotte City Council awarded Walton a $16,000 bonus, and the city manager accepted.

Council members said they were pleased with how Walton has navigated the city through the economic downturn. But Democrat Michael Barnes and Republican Mayor Pat McCrory voted against the pay package because of the bonus.

"I thought he did a very good job - I told him that," said Barnes. "But I didn't think it was right to pay out bonuses. My concern is that there are a lot of people struggling. It would be beneficial for us to show restraint."

McCrory, who is allowed to vote in personnel matters, said Walton did a good job.

"But I was opposed to the bonus because of the economic circumstances in the public and private sector," McCrory said.

Walton, whose evaluation was approved Monday for work in the previous 12 months, will see his total pay remain the same as a year ago. He will receive a salary of $200,312 and the $16,000 bonus, based on his 2008-09 performance.

But a number of city employees whose evaluations also came after July are seeing their pay decrease. The city awarded 314 bonuses, or merit payments, between July 2008 and May 2009 for a total of nearly $400,000. As the financial crisis deepened last year, the city froze positions and cut back on travel and other expenses. The city decided against stopping merit bonus payments in the middle of the fiscal year to avoid punishing employees who had later review dates.

Typically, most city employees can receive up to 8 percent of their salary as a merit-based raise, a bonus, or a combination of the two. When the new fiscal year began in July, Walton said he would recommend stopping the bonuses due to the downturn.

Human Resources Director Tim Mayes, for instance, was paid a salary of $149,555 for 2008-09 as well as a merit bonus of $14,955. For this fiscal year, Mayes will receive only his base salary.

He said Walton was given a bonus by council members because of an "understanding" that's been in place for five years.

"(Council members and the city manager) liken the one-time payment as the first cousin to base pay," Mayes said. "It's not contractually based, but there is a good faith understanding between them."

Mayes said in an e-mail that cutting the bonus would reduce the manager's pay, which would be "inappropriate."

Walton was out of town Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment. A city spokesperson, Kim McMillan, said Walton declined to talk about his evaluation because state law allows those discussions to take place in private.

In a June Observer story, Walton said he wanted to cut all the city's bonuses temporarily except for a program that allows employees to share in savings when their department or division is a low bidder on a contract. The story didn't address whether Walton planned to not accept any bonus council members might approve.

City attorney Mac McCarley is also paid by the council and is eligible for a bonus.

Mayor-elect Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, voted for Walton's pay package.

"There was a lot of discussion about that issue," Foxx said. "The decision was that as part of the package that the city manager has, if certain targets are met, that's part of the compensation. It wasn't done without debate."

Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones accepted a $38,400 bonus earlier this month. His total compensation of $254,055 remains the same as last year.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman turned down his bonus this summer, and eliminated bonuses for principals and teachers. CMS said the reductions saved $1million.

Council member Patsy Kinsey, a Democrat who voted for Walton's bonus, said she believes Walton received it because it was based on his performance for fiscal year 2008-09 - making it unrelated, she believed, to one-time payments that have been "frozen" for the fiscal year 2009-2010.

That isn't correct, according to the timeline outlined by Mayes. All city employees whose evaluations fell after July 1 of this year are ineligible for pay increases except Walton and McCarley.

Charlotte City Council Approves Bonus To Attorney Mac McCarley

The Charlotte City Council voted Monday night to give City Attorney Mac McCarley a $15,000 bonus - a controversial decision that comes in a year when city employees aren't receiving bonuses.

Council members a week ago gave City Manager Curt Walton a $16,000 bonus, the same amount he received a year ago. Walton had earlier this year stopped all raises and merit-based bonuses for city employees due to the recession. The council voted 7-5 to give McCarley his bonus. Democrat Michael Barnes and Republican Mayor Pat McCrory were the only "no" votes against Walton's bonus, and they voted against McCarley's as well.

They were joined Monday by Democrats Warren Turner, James Mitchell and Mayor-elect Anthony Foxx. Turner had missed last week's vote on Walton's bonus.

Republican Warren Cooksey voted for both bonuses, and said Monday night he supported them because they were for work done in fiscal year 2008-09, which ended June 30. Walton has cut raises for employees receiving evaluations after July of this year.

When asked if he will accept his bonus, McCarley said "of course." When asked if he won't accept a bonus next year, he said he wouldn't speculate. Walton also said last week in an e-mail that he would not speculate on whether he will accept a bonus for 2009-10.

McCrory, in his last meeting as mayor, said McCarley did "outstanding" work for the city in the last year. But he said he couldn't support the bonus due to the economy.

McCarley's base salary will remain at $175,781. Walton's base salary of $200,312 is the same as he received a year ago. The city manager and the city attorney are the two city salaries set by council.

In other action, council members voted 7-4 to approve spending $630,000 on a smart traffic-control system for Pineville-Matthews Road that's designed to ensure traffic flows on the busy highway.

The item didn't appear to be controversial, but it touched off a heated debate over District 7 member Cooksey's opposition.

Cooksey, a Republican, said he was voting against the item because it's being paid for with federal stimulus dollars. He said he believes it's wrong to pay for these and other projects with money that will place the nation deeper into debt.

Cooksey's statement prompted Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess, a Democrat, to question why the rest of the council should support the item, because N.C. 51 is almost entirely in Cooksey's south Charlotte district.

Democrat Michael Barnes continued that line of thought: "If a district rep doesn't believe it's in his best interest to support it, why should the rest of the city?"

Republican John Lassiter, at his last meeting, accused Burgess and Barnes of potentially acting "vindictively" to punish residents near the highway, which Lassiter said he drives frequently. He described it as a "personal assault."

Cooksey said he believes that council districts are to ensure geographic diversity, and that his vote isn't only for his 100,000 residents.

Cooksey wasn't put in the position of voting for the project or losing it. Barnes and Democrats Warren Turner and James Mitchell also voted against it, but it passed with seven votes.

Council members approved its federal lobbying agenda, which included a stance against collective bargaining for police and firefighters.

A bill being considered in Congress would allow for collective bargaining for public safety officials in all states, including those that forbid it, such as North Carolina.

McCrory pushed his colleagues to come out against collective bargaining, saying it would increase costs to taxpayers.

Council members also voted 10-1 to authorize Walton to begin making long-term investments in the stock market with up to $150 million - up to 10 percent of the city's investments.

The N.C. General Assembly in 2007 gave Charlotte and other large N.C. cities and counties the right to invest in the market, with the hope of getting higher returns than safer investments such as bonds.

The city has said it would invest $35 million initially and then $8 million a month.

Barnes voted against the investments.

"This is our entry into the stock market," Barnes said. "I don't believe we need to do that."

"King Harry Jones" Slams Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Board

In another indication that the rancor and dust have not settled between county budget cutters and their cuttees, County Manager Harry “Bonus Baby” Jones used the venue of a Ballantyne Breakfast Club community meeting Saturday to slam the library board.

Jones told the Ballantyne group that the library board should never have proposed closing half its branches after it was confronted with the need for large cuts in the library system’s budget.

Jones also said the board should not have responded to the public outcry about closing libraries by telling citizens to direct their complaints to the county commission.

Jones’ comments came about 10 days after Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman, while announcing that he and his top aides were forgoing bonuses, reminded everyone that his actions were “unlike other government bodies’” practices — a none-too-subtle slap at Jones, who took a $38,000 bonus after cutting county jobs and denying raises to other county employees.

Jones’ comments may be meant to remind the library board who’s king of the county, but there are a couple of little problems King Harry should consider.

First, local citizens have much more respect for the folks who run one of the nation’s finest library systems (or at least it was until the current budget fiasco) than they’ve ever had for him.

Second, if the library board acted peevishly by referring complainers to the county commission, you frankly can’t blame them.

We’ve noted this before, but it bears repeating until it sinks in with Jones’ bosses on the commission: Much of the current community angst over library and school cuts is due to the way Jones (and the financial wizards he hired to keep up with the county’s money) waited until the last possible minute to tell the library and CMS to gut their budgets.

The reason for the delay? Oh, well, Jones & Co. didn’t realize that revenue was going to be so much lower than expected — who’d-a thought that was possible in a deep recession, huh? — and they kept thinking the numbers would get better, so they waited and waited and waited.

The upshot was that the schools and libraries were blindsided by Jones’ demand for massive cuts, which had to be decided on within a matter of days.

In most places, Jones & Co.’s actions would be considered incompetent. Here, he gets to go around talking crap about those he blindsided. But who are we to comment? It’s King Harry’s county; we just live in it.

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Sources:, Creative Loafing, McClatchy Newspapers, Stop DSS Corruption, WCNC, Youtube, Google Maps

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