With the last City Council meeting for 2012 now in the books, Council President Leo Robinson believes the past year has been a successful one.
“We’ve done much to be proud of, even though we know we have much more still to do,” said Robinson.
“Our primary responsibilities,” he continued, “are to oversee the City’s finances and supervise the city manager’s administration of City government. We also are out in the community, communicating with people about what their City government is doing, and listening to them as to what their needs and concerns may be.
“I’m pleased that we have done all of that and believe we’ve had another good year of building upon previous good years to advance many important causes here,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the routine work of the Council: balancing budgets, reviewing audits and overseeing the work of various departments, was accomplished in a timely, professional and complete manner.
“Council has seen to it that we balanced another budget, remained loyal to our goals of fiscal discipline and found ways of funding additional infrastructure projects. We took serious measures and have been thorough in our audit function, insuring honesty, accountability and transparency in both spending and the conduct of City business. We also made sure that we provided people with the opportunity to comment on their municipal government and community, and took those comments seriously by acting on them,” Robinson stressed.
On financial matters, Robinson particularly pointed to Council action to saving homeowners thousands of dollars in property taxes and water and sewer charges.
On property taxes, the Council adopted tax rate proposals that will provide residential owner-occupants with more than $1,600 in savings on what their tax burden would have otherwise been. The water and sewer rate freeze this year is estimated to have saved the average homeowner about $90.
“That’s real money and a direct impact on people’s pocketbooks,” said Robinson. “What the public may not see directly, though, are the efforts we have taken to ensure even greater efficiency for the tax dollars we have collected.”
Among those items of greatest importance that the Council acted upon in 2012 were municipal health insurance reform, which saved more than $1 million on the City’s budget and allowed that amount to be directed to support other municipal needs, and energy conservation measures that will reduce the costs of lighting, heating and otherwise powering municipal functions, while also being a help to the environment.
“One of the ways we’re able to balance budgets without asking people for a Proposition 2 ½ override is to save money here and do things more efficiently there. It’s a constant process, and Council is calling for, reviewing and approving such efforts,” advised Robinson, who went on to say that the Council’s work on refinancing school debt is saving the City millions of dollars that are being put aside for a new or renovated Clark Avenue School.
The Council approved a feasibility study for that project.
Community development is a major priority that Robinson and his 10 colleagues have identified. This past year, for example, Council’s actions to approve park funding have resulted in the reconstruction of Washington Park in Prattville and the new construction of a park in Cary Square. Zoning changes are helping to convert industrial uses in neighborhoods to more compatible residential projects, and protecting neighborhoods from being overrun by convenience stores that convert to selling mostly alcohol.
“And, when the Marriott opened its doors this year, it was satisfying to know of the contributions our Council made towards making it happen,” added Robinson.
Council just approved additional funding for the City to acquire a parcel on Central Avenue that could be another hotel in the future.
Other initiatives were also adopted through the year, from funding a new LED street light program that will be implemented in February to adopting a new set of completed City codes. Those are not as “sexy as seeing new parks open, roadway projects get underway or hotels being constructed,” according to Robinson, but are part of what a functioning Council does.
“That functioning includes overseeing but having a good working relationship with City Manager (Jay) Ash, and being everywhere we can be to just interact with the public and be the faces and ears of their City government,” described Robinson.
In the beginning of 2012, Robinson led a visioning process among his colleagues that is still directing municipal efforts on crime, sidewalk improvements and other quality of life issues.
“We’re not there yet,” said Robinson of accomplishing all 11 of the goals his colleagues and he set for their full term, which runs to the end of 2013, “but we’re seeing a great deal of progress, and that encourages us and others in the community to strive to do even more.”
Robinson said he has been especially appreciative of all those who supported the community with him.
“I’m proud of what my colleagues are doing, and proud of all that others are doing to make Chelsea a better place and to help individuals and families reach their own goals,” he said. “We have a great community already, so the future improvements we make will really help us all shine.”