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March 01, 2006

Back in town, catching up

I've been out of town a good part of the last month, sitting in on the Sarah Kolb re-trial in Dixon, so I'm now playing catch-up on what's been going on around the Quad-Cities. Some quick observations on various things:

-- Three cheers for the Davenport city council for ignoring administrator Craig Malin's recommendation and approving a settlement of the lawsuit filed by former mayor/police lieutenant Phil Yerington, who'll be getting $130,000 from the city.

Yerington, you'll recall, was fired from the police department late in 2004 after the infamous "faxgate" incident in which a police department fax machine was used to send a false report to the news media that the police union had filed a complaint against him. Yerington, who was running for Scott County sheriff at the time, criticized the department's failure to discover who'd sent the fax, and named one of his fellow officers as the prime suspect.

The city, with barely a nod toward due process and no nod at all toward Yerington's first amendment rights, fired him. He filed suit and the matter's been hanging fire since. It's over now, with the city having done the right thing by a man who was treated shabbily after some 32 years of solid service.

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The council gets three cheers, too, for approving "rules of conduct" for itself and the staff. The rules are common-sense things: Avoid personal attacks, treat each other civilly, tell the truth, act professionally.

It's true that the new rules can be ignored with considerable impunity by alderpeople, who draw their power from the voters who elected them and who ultimately are answerable to the voters rather than their fellows on the council. But adoption of the rules indicates a willingness to try to improve the tone and tenor of council meetings, which all too have been marked by incivility, unprofessionalism and personal attacks.

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The council gets no cheers for its decision to go straight for the public safety agencies when the need for some budgetary belt-tightening became apparent. Why look first to the departments that provide critical services?

I'd like to see some more definitive analysis than has been produced so far as to why the fire and police departments should bear the brunt of the cuts.

I confess that I'm not familiar enough with staffing levels at the city to say with certainty that cuts could be more readily made elsewhere, but long experience with local governments in general would lead me to say that there likely are administrative positions that could be sliced without doing much harm to public safety or other important city goals.

Posted by jcb at March 1, 2006 03:04 PM

Comments

Am I the only one that wonders if the Davenport city administrator is overpaid based on the events of the last couple years??

Posted by: anonymous at March 1, 2006 07:33 PM

No, you're not. And lucky for him we can't have a "confidence" or "no confidence" vote on him -- a sort of democratic performance review...

Posted by: Anonymous at March 2, 2006 01:06 PM

And what issues would you raise, during a democratic performance review?

Posted by: observer at March 3, 2006 11:46 PM

Be truthful? Treat others with respect? Most people learned this in kindergarten. I think it's incredibly sad that grown men and women need to be reminded how to act.

Posted by: puzzler at March 7, 2006 12:11 PM