The proceedings, while cordial, were not lacking in regards to public input.
Even council members’ approval of the appointment of four new municipal court judges — all unanimous — sparked a few words of semi-protest.
Joseph Buford, Sharon Dickson, Marcie Ernst and Candiss Howard were all sworn into their new positions Tuesday night. They join sitting Judge Donald Schaefer, and all will have four-year terms.
Longtime resident Patti Berkovitz took issue with the jettisoning of James M. Anderson III, Scott Carter and Larry Young.
“It’s starting to smell like nepotism … where you bring your friends into the business,” said Berkovitz. “It [shows] there may be a flaw in our public-private system.
“I’m sure the [new judges] will be fine, but this is a real shame.”
Mayor Rusty Paul commended the outgoing judges, but defended the process of selecting their eventual replacements.
The then-nominees were recommended by a panel of attorneys Paul convened in January to review the city’s court system.
“These [new judges] are a diverse group of experienced attorneys, possessing the qualities we seek in such judicial positions,” Paul said.
Current development projects under way in or near multiple neighborhoods also drew several willing participants in the public comment section of Tuesday’s meeting.
Residents, in succession, raised environmental concerns and addressed other issues pertaining to perceived intrusiveness and indecency.
The latter issue was brought forth by Barbara Malone, speaking on behalf of residents of Long Island Place about the Long Island Preserve work site.
“We’ve had vagrants in the neighborhood before; we don’t seem to get any joy,” Malone said. “The final straw was on Saturday when a neighbor [discovered] workers — in lieu of a port-a-potty — have been defecating on private property.
“This is unacceptable. What is the city going to do about it?”
Paul said city officials and staffers would do their due diligence in investigating the aforementioned claims.
The evening also featured the first public hearing as part of the city’s fiscal 2015 budget process.
The proposed budget for all operating capital and special revenue funds total nearly $200 million, City Manager John McDonough said.
Resident Tochie Blad, the only resident to comment on the issue, called on McDonough and company to break with recent history by spending the projected $7 million surplus.
“You’ve been running budget surpluses every year,” said Blad. “It’s a policy decision that this council can make and that needs to be that on this annual operating budget — which I think the focus should be police and fire — that we spend the money in the year that we acquire it…or return it to taxpayers.”
In other news, the council voted to ban smoking at city parks, effective immediately.
“Our parks are public spaces,” Paul said. “Everyone, in particular our children, should have the opportunity to enjoy these outdoor, natural areas without worry of taking in second-hand smoke.”
The ordinance outlaws not only more traditional tobacco use — cigarettes, pipes and cigars — but also e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and self-rolling tobacco products.