Earlier I wrote how unusual it seemed that the receiver assigned to Chester City was receiving such a warm welcome from city officials. On multiple occasions they expressed how they appreciated his assistance, would make themselves available, and wanted him to feel welcome. In response, the receiver mentioned how welcome he felt and acknowledged the cooperation he was getting from city government but would always add these two words – ‘For Now!’
The receiver made it known from the beginning that he had a lot to learn about the city in a very short time and had the authority to make decisions based on his findings. Now that he’s made a few moves, it doesn’t appear he’s so welcome by city government anymore.
Thanks to the pandemic, more of us are participating in city government thanks to video broadcasts of meetings that were never accessible by video before. After viewing yesterday’s Chester City Deliberative and Council Meetings (December 23, 2020) on facebook.com/cityofchester, it became very clear that the welcome mat has been pulled from the receiver’s feet (and maybe some office space at city hall, too – rumor).
At about the 55 minute mark of the city council meeting, Mayor Kirkland voiced his displeasure with the receiver’s decision to appear on what he called a podcast – but is actually a December 18th internet radio interview with the Chestorians on CMP radio (facebook.com/cmpradio.net) -where the receiver explained his role; reported on some of his findings; shared some of the actions he’s taken; and made projections of the work left to do.
For the next 25-minutes, Kirkland implied that he misunderstood the Governor when he called to offer help and went so far as to call the receiver a petty dictator who refuses to partner with the city.
At the heart of Kirkland’s displeasure is the receiver eliminating positions in city government. During the CMP broadcast, the receiver explained city government was top heavy in management with some managers having little responsibility and evidence of duplication of responsibility. By eliminating 7 management positions and consolidating those responsibilities among others saves enough money to pay the salaries of 20 to 25 on the city staff. For the first time we learned of who had lost their jobs as Kirkland, in his city council address, gave a partial roll call of their names, positions, job descriptions, and some of their accomplishments while serving.
Just one day before the city council meeting was the Municipal Financial Recovery Advisory Committee Meeting (December 22, 2020) also found on facebook.com/cityofchester. This is where the receiver and his advisory committee provides updates on their work. Mayor Kirkland is on the advisory committee and of the several meetings I’ve watched, he never has any input. This meeting, all he offered was a Merry Christmas. Maybe it’s just me, but that was the perfect time to chime in on the receiver’s work since the receiver was right there in front of him. You would have no idea the mayor had any animosity toward the receiver watching that meeting. I guess the receiver’s moves didn’t hit Kirkland until later that day and he vented the next day at city council.
Some of the other statements Kirkland shared at city council: the city’s dire financial situation is due to the pandemic; mayor and city council members work at least 5 to 6 hours a day 7-days a week (if 40-hours is still considered full time); State Troopers were patrolling Chester streets before the receiver arrived; Councilwomen West and Williams have always done, and continue to do, a great job at snow removal in the city; His $34,000 and council’s $30,000 pay increases were justified because they haven’t had a pay increase in 10-years and the past administration lowered the salary and he didn’t take a salary while working as State Rep and mayor at the same time. The Governor promised Chester $15,000,000 and there’s $12,000,000 on the table somewhere. And there’s more.
Early in Kirkland’s diatribe, he mentioned that he doesn’t blow his own horn. I’ve often expressed the same sentiment of all the city government administrations I’ve seen operate here. They just don’t do a good job getting the good news out. They like to complain that I only post the bad news but I constantly beg for the good news, much of which only they know about because they’re doing the work and should be happy to share it with others. I love to receive press releases. I post everyone I get. That’s how organizations announce their good news. It just does’t happen around here.
The Honeymoon is clearly over between the city and the receiver. As with all relationships, there’s got to be some compromise if it’s going to work. There’s a two year commitment between these two. There’s still time to work something out.