A discussion over the implementation of the bike patrol served as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back on Monday night, as council ended up reorganizing its leadership positions. Councilman Bill Stewart pressed council and the mayor to agree to a timeline to determine if the bike patrol could be implemented for the remainder of the summer. Stewart has been asking about the bike patrol for several months but cannot seem to get an answer from the mayor, who is solely responsible for making the decision on implementing a bike patrol. In response to Stewart’s request, the Mayor replied that it was an operational decision of the police department and that it was his decision to have the bike patrol, which is the same answer he has given since he lost in the primary election two months ago. He stated, as he did in June, that he would talk to the acting chief to see whether or not the program could take place. There was no report from the mayor about how his discussions went after June's meeting. Orr and Stewart both chaired opposing election platforms stating that bringing back the bike patrol was a priority, however two months after the primary election, Stewart's effort to enact those campaign promises seems to have been stalled by the mayor’s office.
Stewart pressed the issue and asked more questions. He asked if there were bikes available and if there would be an assumed willingness from officers to take on the overtime shifts. The answers to both questions were yes. John Pappas stated that he was concerned about the finances, stating that the new firehouse is way over budget. Questions arose about the $25,000 the mayor said was saved during the FOP contract settlement, which was ratified in March of this year. Residents wondered why that money could not be used to pay for the bike patrol. No response was given and the borough solicitor advised council not to speak about the police contract.
At this point Council voted to replace John Pappas as President with Karen Reeves, appointing Bill Stewart to Vice President of Council, and Despo Tatisciore as pro temp of Council.
Pappas has been unable to balance the opinions of both factions on council, and although he says the right things with regard to putting the Borough first, he has been unable to execute that vision and get everyone working together. The videos posted to YouTube show a clear bias of Pappas to listen to whatever Orr would shout out from the corner. Whenever Orr wants a conversation shut down, Pappas shuts it down, which seems to frustrate those who were endorsed by the residents in May.
Funding is the common argument against the bike patrol. If funding truly does not exist for the program, I would first question why both tickets in the May primary campaigned about having a bike patrol. Neither should have promised a program if funding does not exist, and both sides should have known prior to making the promise for bike patrol if funding was available. Pappas has said for months that funding would need to be found, which is confusing to residents because the Mayor said he has $25,000 in savings from the FOP contract that was ratified in March. This amount of money could pay for multiple years of bike patrol. However, it is entirely possible that the $25,000 saved by avoiding arbitration with the FOP is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to the overspending to build a new firehouse. No one has said this, but I am guessing it may be true given that Pappas mentioned that the firehouse is over budget, and he is staunchly against spending what would now be about $5,000 to run a bike patrol for the remaining summer months.
Had Pappas been forthcoming when the Mayor apparently misled residents months ago about the savings, and he shut down the conversation from both sides of the table with regard to increasing services during campaign season, he could have avoided the embarrassment of this reorganization. Pappas should have shut the mayor down when he said there was a savings of money because he knows that the savings still does not account for the overspending on the firehouse. Pappas should have also shut down all of the candidates who currently hold seats (Orr, Reeves, Stewart, Tatiscoire, and Kerns) when they talked about the bike patrol. He could have said, “There is no money because of the firehouse being over budget. The firehouse was necessary. We all agreed to build it. Now we need to be responsible as we move forward to ensure we continue to not raise taxes, as we have done for almost a decade.” That would have been the tough but necessary statement that a president of council needs to make, and it would have shown that he has no blatant bias toward one side. However, Pappas allowed the Mayor and his ticket to try to win an election by saying he saved money with the FOP contract.
Pappas may want to blame politics for the reorganization. And he is right. It was a completely political decision to remove him. However, he needs to acknowledge that both sides are playing political games here. To point out the politics of one side without acknowledging the same behavior of the other is hypocritical. Pappas would be wise to reflect on some of the people who served on Council, just in the past 5 years (Suzanne Blissick and Kevin Begley, to name two), and recall how Orr crucified them when they had different opinions than Orr held with regard to police and administrative oversight issues. Had Orr and his ticket won in May, they would be doing the same thing.
Which brings me to the following conclusion….It is time for this entire group to start looking forward and implementing ideas instead of griping about the past or trying to take credit for an idea to advance a personal agenda. Take a lesson from Stewart’s decision to nominate Dave Bennett to the Civil Service Commission and his willingness to work with Kerns on a recycling project. These men ran against each other in May, with Kerns and Bennett on the other ticket, yet Stewart is putting the political difference aside to ensure the residents receive valuable services. You are not going to agree on the best path forward, however you should be able to disagree like adults and ensure the Borough is run in a responsible manner.
To that end…..
Prior to the reorganization described above, Eddystone Rail Company made a presentation to highlight the progress of their project. They stated how they want to positively contribute to the community. There are approximately 7 weekends left in the summer. Maybe someone could ask the company to make a donation to the borough to fund, or at least partially fund, this year’s program? Rather than show how each side is wrong, maybe we could look to see how we can implement the positive parts of each other’s argument. Bike patrol is valid. Saving money is valid. Maybe using company donations for large-scale projects can accomplish both goals. Everyone knows that Orr will hit the company up for WIN Committee or recreation money, if he hasn't already done so. Maybe he should ask for bike patrol money instead.