Council/Mayor Relationship

June 17, 2014

We have an administration which will decide whether or not to follow all ordinances. We have a council which appears to me to be afraid of our Mayor. We have a newspaper whose coverage of city government disappoints in many ways. Nothing will ever change unless the people get involved and demand accountability.

The Inquirer has been running a recap of the city’s falling into fiscal emergency and as I read these articles I cannot help but see a disheartening similarity between the relationship of the former council/administration leading up to the fiscal calamity and the relationship of the current council/administration. The same applies to the Inquirer coverage. Prior to the time the financial situation exploded into fiscal emergency, there was only one criticism of city government which I can remember the Inquirer making. That critical comment by the Inquirer was that the flag which flies over the city building was becoming frayed and needed to be replaced.

I spoke with Mayor O’Leary some time back regarding the city’s refusal to follow the ordinance for calculating and using the Power Cost Adjustment (PCA). The mayor told me he would not require his administration to follow the ordinance and that if I had a problem with that I should take it to council. This is important because the apparently arbitrary setting of the PCA has resulted in utility customers being overcharged beginning in 2009.

I then attended a council utility committee meeting and stated my case. I had previously voiced my concern to them of their being reluctant to accept their responsibility. That utility committee meeting was close to being a full council meeting with the mayor, council president, and five of the seven council members present. At that meeting I requested a copy of the ordinance which spells out all requirements regarding the PCA.

After some time I decided that if I was ever going to get a copy of the ordinance I would have to go directly to the person who could make such a copy. I saw the clerk of council and she expressed surprise that I hadn’t received the copy of the ordinance as she had given it to the city’s lawyer as she had been instructed. She did, however, produce a copy for me.

In the Inquirer report of the June 10 city council meeting Brian Treisch was quoted as explaining that calculating the PCA is a part of an internal analysis. Now it might be that someone is doing an analysis of the PCA. However that is no excuse for disobeying the law for five years. This outlaw behavior needs to be rectified. That requires going back to the beginning of 2009 and doing the PCA calculation just as specified by ordinance, including frequency and time of year for each calculation. This should be an easy task which could be done by most seventh graders with a calculator. The results of these calculations must be made public and all overcharges paid back to the electric customers.

John Smella