Promise for transparency, help for Wilmington public safety in New Castle County budget address [video]
March 19, 2013By Shana O'Malley @shanaomalley
New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon vowed for new public safety measures, more transparency and more efficient governing during Tuesday night’s budget address.
Gordon said the budget totals $250 million, a 3.2 percent increase from last year. He said there will be no tax increases or any new taxes. A specific breakdown of the budget was not provided.
During the speech, Gordon explained that he’s been working closely with Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams to create new partnerships between the city and county, especially in the area of public safety.
Beginning in a few weeks, New Castle County police and Wilmington police will share the same jurisdiction throughout the city and county.
“We structured, the mayor and I, that within a few weeks, the county police will be sworn in as Wilmington Police; Wilmington police will be sworn in as county police,” said Gordon.
He explained that crime from the city trickles into the county, and the city/county lines prevent officers from perusing cases or handling a crime they might drive up on.
“Say they’re a half mile in the city and they see on 42nd and market, they see a rape in progress, they can go, make the arrest, turn it over to us and vice versa or a fight in progress,” explained Gordon. “They don’t have to worry about not having jurisdiction.”
The city and county are also working together to use predictive policing technology at the public safety building. The newest technology collects data to help police pinpoint high crime areas.
With the Barley Mill law suit still weighing on the shoulders of county council, Gordon introduced new initiatives for trust-building transparency.
He explained the county will be getting a new website which will feature public record of all the vendor contracts in the county.
“Every penny that comes out of the executive office will be on the computer,” said Gordon.
He added that campaign contributions given to public officials will also be disclosed in the public records.
“Anybody that authors legislation, that’s comes into council, we’re going to ask that you disclose who that is,” he said. “Not that it’s not a good thing to do sometimes, but it’s nice to know, maybe it’s for a developer, whose plan is in front of us for the public to see that.”
When it comes to land use, Gordon said the county certainly has seen better days.
“In 97’ sitting here giving this speech, Delaware was a lot different talking about land use,” said Gordon. “A lot different. We had the DuPont Company as the number one employer. We had MBNA took over half the city. We had two automobile plants employing people from all over the city and the county. Now you look at it right now, we have a jobless recovery, unfortunately, the jobs that are being paid nowadays, hardly cover enough to buy a car let alone a house. We’re watching the port which is the last line of good paying jobs, teeter.”
To top it off, he noted AstraZeneca announced plans earlier this week to cut 1,200 jobs from their Wilmington location.
To help revive the county, Gordon requested $150,000 to hire a consultant for a two part solution.
“I knew in 97’ who the great counties were, I don’t really know now,” said Gordon. “But you find who has the great land use practices and you bring it to the table. Second part of that consulting activity we’re going to have, is take a look at the code.”
The budget also included 19 new county jobs, plans for park improvements and plans to create an urban farming program for inner-city youth.
NCC President Chris Bullock said he thought the addressed highlighted a many positives for county residents.
"I was most appreciative that the county executive came in with an olive branch and to debunk an adversarial relationship, which means that we can work together to try to achieve the legislative agenda that we have and an executive agenda that he has for the good of the citizens of New Castle County," said Bullock. "I thought his speech dealt with quality of life issues and a progressive path forward around effective and efficient government. I was really intrigued about the ethics reform package and I’m most intrigued about the cooperative policing partnership between the city of Wilmington and the County police."
A detailed budget should be available Wednesday.