Wilmington budget fight finally over

The bitter budget dispute between the Baker administration and members of Wilmington City Council, but the animosity it has stirred still lingers.

Council members approved an budget amendment at their meeting last night that restores two positions that Mayor James Baker called vital to the city’s operation.  The nine to four vote resolves the administrations fears that the elimination of those positions could make the budget unbalanced and create a deficit.  

The positions that were restored by the amendment include a job in the Finance Department responsible for revenue collections and a job in the Public Works Department responsible for accurate and timely payments to vendors.  In a written statement issued after the vote, Baker says, “We had left ourselves vulnerable to collecting less revenue, thereby threatening city services and jobs and delaying public works projects.”  Baker added, “Continuing to seek a compromise was appropriate and worthwhile.”

Some council members were chafed by the administration’s request for an amendment, especially after they overrode Baker’s veto of the budget they originally approved.  “I’m not even sure if it’s the Mayor or if it’s the advisors, but ‘It’s my way or the highway,'” said Councilwoman Loretta Walsh about the way she feels council is being treated by the administration. 

Councilman Stephen Martelli echoed Walsh’s comments. “I’m not sure how it’s considered compromise when you kick and scream [when you] don’t get what you want,” he said.  Councilman Kevin Kelley also questioned the process, “Maybe it is a little bit personal, because I remember when the Mayor was in here screaming and hollering at us about how we do things.”

Kelley is among those on council still stewing after Baker’s comments during his budget address earlier this year where he used combative language to encourage an end to animosity between his administration and council members.  “You want to have war for 600 more days fine,” Baker said in March.

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