Wilmington City Council vs Mayor Williams and the safe streets plan

 (John Jankowski/for Newsworks)

(John Jankowski/for Newsworks)

What should we make about the latest split between Wilmington City Council and Mayor Williams over policing policies and funding?

Here is John Watson’s commentary:

Something is very wrong with the Wilmington City Council. They have shut the door on Police Chief Bobby Cummings’ proposal that would help make the city a safer place to live and work.

The proposal added three administrative positions to the police force; two inspectors and one information technology officer.

It’s reported that at the meeting with city council, Chief Cummings said those positions are necessary to reform the department and make it comply with the recommendations from the Wilmington Public Safety and Strategies Commission; which was created by the State Legislature and Governor Jack Markell to examine needed changes in the department.

The so-called Cummings Proposal, required a $585,000 addition to the city budget to fund the new positions. There would be no increase to the city flat tax rate, because funding would be taken from the anticipated budget surplus of some $400,000 coming out of the reduced department overtime budget.

I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like the mayor and the police chief are on the right track.

For some reason some members of the city council seem to be deaf, dumb and blind; giving very little support to the proposal, saying the department could implement changes without adding three new positions or increasing the budget.

Meanwhile, Public Safety Committee Chairman Mike Brown said the proposal is going nowhere fast. “I think it is a dead issue” he said. Then going on to say there would be no discussion of the issue unless the administration of Mayor Dennis P. Williams is willing to renegotiate the specifics.

It seems like Mike is just as much out of touch with reality as the rest of city council is.

Chief Cummings is quoted as saying, “We will continue to do what is necessary to continue to move the police department forward, and make the city safe. And we will have to do that without an amendment.”

As for Councilwoman Loretta Walsh, she says, “You don’t need those administrators to implement [the chief’s] plan from the crime commission.”

She and Councilman Bud Freel remind us that the commission report didn’t call for additional spending or department positions. Freel says the report and the department agreed about adequate staffing, but recommended a deputy chief come from outside of the Wilmington Police Department, and he felt nothing would change to improve the department when Chief Cummings’ proposal called for promotion from within.

City Council President Theo Gregory initially supported the plan, and it’s reported that he says he is open to more negotiations, discussions or new proposals from the mayor or his administration, “They are holding fast that they need those three positions, and that seems to be the sticking point, so unless they come back and make another presentation, that is where it is.” Going on to say, he is “…disappointed that given the work that the state did, all the work that we did, that we haven’t gotten anything passed.”

The mayor’s spokeswoman, Alexandra Coppadge is quoted as saying, “We will continue to look for ways to work with the council, but our position on this is clear: the citizens of Wilmington deserve an up or down vote on a plan that will improve public safety.” 

That’s a nice way of saying, all concerned need to get on the job in their position, city council or otherwise, and get the job done now, before it’s too late.

If Chief Cummings doesn’t get the help he needs and deserves, and Wilmington continues to be the violent city it is…..I will blame city council for not providing the needed funds to keep us safe. What about you?

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John Watson is a former Wilmington radio talkshow host and current observer of Delaware. You can write him: JohnWatson1506@comcast.net

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