Monday, July 21, 2008

Progressive Update—07/21/2008—New Castle County

A meeting worth attending—This Tuesday, the 22nd, at 7pm, the New Castle County Council meets, at the City/County Building at 800 N French Street in Wilmington. You may want to be there.
Section H of the Agenda has two items of particular interest. There is a proposal for the council to pay or not pay the attorney fees incurred by Sherry Freebery. Why is this interesting? The fees are $3.7 million, and are claimed to be tied to Freebery’s defense against charges that she and Tom Gordon (more on this in a bit) ran county government ‘as a criminal enterprise and misusing county resources and personnel for their own political and personal benefit’. Several of the most serious charges were dropped against Freebery, but in the process she pleaded guilty to a felony of lying about having received a $2.3 million loan from (developer and) DuPont heir Lisa Dean Moseley.
An interesting twist in this case is whether (Republican) US Attorney Colm Connelly trumped up the charges against Sherry and Tom as part of the Justice Department witchhunt against Democrats. I have no idea about this. If true, then it seems like the US Justice Department should cover the legal fees. I don’t see why New Castle County taxpayers should have to foot the $3.7 million bill.
An attorney tasked by council to review the request has recommended against the county reimbursing the bill. Let’s hope that the council follows this recommendation.
The second item of interest is a proposal by six county council members (McClellan, Cartier, Hollins, Street, Tackett, and Tansey) that County Council President Paul Clark refrain from introducing and spearheading development legislation for the time being. Clark was criticized for sending an email out about development issues. The two criticisms on the email are that Paul sent it out with a electronic tag from his wife’s law firm (which represents developers), and that Paul sent it out to developers and did not include council members. Several council members are concerned with, if not the reality, at least with the appearance of undue pro-developer influence on Paul Clark and council.
This proposal has been criticized as political. It may be. It may instead be a good-faith attempt by council members to take a timeout and examine the system, to ensure both the reality and appearance of a level playing field between residents and developers. If you support this resolution, even if you cannot attend the meeting, please let your county council person know of your support.
I support the proposal, as a wonderful step towards good government, but not as harsh criticism of Paul Clark’s actions. I like Paul, and I feel that his heart has always been in the right place. However I am also a strong proponent of recusal—not voting on an issue where you have a conflict of interest (real or perceived). This helps strengthen the trust of your constituents. I think that council members are right to call for this timeout, to explore how to help strengthen the trust of county residents in their county government.
If you have a strong opinion on either/both of these issues, please attend the meeting (get there early), and sign up to speak on this issue.
Race #1—County Executive—Chris Coons is the current New Castle County Executive. He is running for re-election. His primary opponent is Tom Gordon (I told you I’d get back to him). Tom was the previous County Executive, who lost his bid for re-election due to the criminal indictment. Gordon eventually plea-bargained down to two misdemeanors. Gordon is a former police officer, and is popular amongst several unions. Coons has had to deal with difficult finance times. Gordon served when property values were rising and transfer taxes were rising—Coons suffered with the reverse situation. Gordon contorts the history to claim financial brilliance, when the facts are that he was at the right place at the right time, he enjoyed a stiff tailwind. Chris Coons has dealt very, very well with a stiff headwind. He has made necessary, but at times unpopular, budget cuts.
For this race, my decision is based on character. Chris Coons is someone I trust to lead the count for the next five years. Gordon is not, not even close in my book. I endorse Chris Coons for New Castle County Executive.
Race #2—County Council President—Paul Clark (yes, as discussed above) is running for re-election. This weekend we learned that local community activist Bill Dunn will be running against him in the primary. I have only recently been able to chat with Bill at length. As with several races this year, I find that both candidates have both strengths and weaknesses, and I haven’t yet selected one to endorse, I encourage you to learn about each, to choose whom you will support.
On that note, Newark’s UU church ( is hosting a candidate forum on Saturday August 23rd. We are inviting every candidate in a primary in September that affects Newark (Congress, Governor, Insurance Commissioner, County Executive, County Council President, 6th Senate District). Please mark your calendars to come to the forum, and tell your community association, book club, faith community, blog, etc).

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