City Hall’s proposed stormwater authority was almost canned at a Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday.
Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson motioned to grant leave to withdraw the stormwater authority plan from the committee, so that it could be voted on by the full Board of Aldermen. Passage of the motion would have moved the proposal from the committee of the whole, a nominal committee comprised of the full Board of Aldermen, and allowed the board to “vote to kill it,” Goldson said, but his proposal failed by a margin of 16 votes to 14.
“It’s just another attempt to raise taxes without calling it a tax, by calling it a fee,” Goldson said in an interview with the News Wednesday. “With the way the economy is right now, we don’t want to see taxpayers burdened any more than they already are.”
Though he said the vote was “only the beginning of the fight, a small skirmish,” he added he would “probably not” move a similar motion in subsequent meetings because detractors of the stormwater authority plan are comfortable with their position.
The plan is unlikely to attract enough votes to move it out of the committee of the whole into the full board, he explained. With the city’s budget gap expected to grow to $20 million next year, deliberations on Mayor John DeStefano Jr.’s budget will intensify in coming weeks, Goldson said. He added this will result in the stormwater proposal falling “dead” among the board.
Carl Goldfield, Ward 29 Alderman and President of the Board of Aldermen, has not scheduled a second meeting to discuss the stormwater authority, despite the time lapsed since the first meeting on Jan. 21.
Goldfield said he made no apologies for the delay, adding that it has been a “valuable hiatus” to allow community input for the proposal. The committee meeting will be scheduled in the next couple of weeks, he said.
“To call this a new tax misrepresents the substance of this,” he said, responding to Goldson’s claim in an interview with the News Wednesday night. “This is just a way to pull other people in to pay for the cost of disposing stormwater.”
Last month, Robert Smuts ’01, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the benefits of a new stormwater authority would improve service while saving residents money.
The taxpayer burden of city services related to stormwater runoff would be cut from $1.7 million to $1.1 million under the new proposal, he said.
But there are other costs that need to be taken into account, said Ward 1 Alderman Michael Jones ’11.
“The current stormwater proposal includes costs for street sweeping and will soon include the costs of separating the combined sewer system, which will greatly increase residents’ bills,” he said.
Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 described himself as a “process junky” and said he voted against Goldson’s motion because no discussion on the merits of the stormwater authority has yet taken place.
Elicker added he was surprised by Goldson’s move, given both of them typically welcome committee hearings and discussion on proposals.
The full Board of Alderman’s next meeting is March 7.
Alon Harish contributed reporting.