First, Olivia Brady was sworn in to fill out the rest of Dwayne Roster/Cy Burke's term. She'll serve until the end of 2015.
Cathy Lawrence was absent. She's actually been absent a lot the last few months. Probably because her term is over on December 31st. Bringing "lame duck" to a new level of disability.
Council officially appointed Rochelle E. Rawlins, Assistant Director of Finance, as acting Finance Director and Municipal Tax Collector, where she will be replacing Richard Zawisza, Norristown’s Finance Director. She's actually been replacing him since November, when Zawisza was given a police escort out of Municipal Hall. Borough manager Crandall Jones says Zawisza is still on administrative paid leave, because of a personal issue. Yes, we're paying Zawisza to do nothing, with no explanation. Read about in Patch.
In other news, J.P. Mascaro & Sons was awarded a one-year extension to its trash collection contract. The Times Herald reported that "the extension will cost each customer $117.56 next year, a 10 percent increase over the current annual cost." The Herald wasn't clear on what was meant. Do they mean an average of $117.56 per customer? Or is the 10% increase the average and individual taxpayers are going to get socked?
While we're talking about having to shell out more money, Council voted to adopt the 2014 budget, with a 2.8% millage rate increase from 2013. According to Patch, this means a $24.16 increase in real estate taxes per $100,000 of assessment. According to the Herald, the increase will be $34. Where taxes are concerned, I tend to believe the worse case scenario.
The budget passed 5 to 1, with Olivia Brady voting against it. I don't know why she voted against it, but possibly it was because the budget was supposed to have been an open process, with input from the public, and that never happened.
Meanwhile, the rest of council and Manager Jones were all patting themselves on the back saying what a great job they'd done on the budget. Councilwoman Christian was quoted as saying "Everything that could possibly be done to not have an increase was done, and I want to say ‘hats off' to our department heads and our administration as a whole, because I think they did an excellent job in this budgeting process." Maybe she was right, but since it wasn't an open process and the budget workshop that was cancelled was never rescheduled, we'll never know.
The thing is, if I thought Council and Jones could be trusted to use the extra money wisely, I'd say go for it. But in the last year, I've seen them give our tax money to people like Sarah Peck, who's building a development the taxpayers don't want, and almost give funds to Pennrose for their horrendous proposal for the corner of Airy and Dekalb. I've seen them court companies like Gaudenzia, who'll bring nothing to Norristown but reasons to avoid the downtown. I've seen them ignore Arts Hill and small business on Main Street and elsewhere. I've seen them make one bad decision after another about our economy.
But hey, we still have Councilman Millner on our side, keeping us informed every minute. Here are his tweets from the meeting:
I feel so much better, don't you?