By Stan Welch
The contentious and often prickly relationship between County Council Chair Francis Crowder and District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd was showcased Tuesday night, as Floyd took advantage of a special segment of the agenda to rail against a recent decision not to seek funding for a bus to serve a route that Floyd favors.
For several months, Floyd has been granted a place in the agenda at each meeting. The segment is captioned “News you can use” and has often proved to be inaccurately titled. In the past, Floyd has held forth on a variety of topics, including an explanation of Obamacare.
Tuesday night, however, it was the finance committee’s decision not to recommend the purchase of an additional mass transit bus at a cost of $125,000 that Floyd was upset about. She went on and on about it, reminding the Council that there was a $540,000 grant available to be used in purchasing the bus, and intimating that there was some ulterior motive behind the decision.
Floyd and Crowder keep each other at arm’s length at best, but her use of the time set aside for providing information in order to raise an item that was not on the agenda clearly upset him. Floyd has abused the agenda procedure before; an inclination that led to the passage of a requirement that back up materials be presented to support the issues raised by a given councilmember.
The Council also formally imposed a total of forty five minutes of agenda time per member, per meeting. Floyd had previously been allocated fifteen minutes so she could introduce the new public defender to the audience. Her twenty five minute allocation for NYCU brought her close to the limit.
During the exchange over the funding for the bus, Councilwoman Cindy Wilson pointed out that the mass transit grant is running out and that $300,000 of it was spent on a Homeland Park route, which Floyd also supported. “We have knocked on many doors trying to address this issue and we have been turned away each time.”
Floyd then began calling on people in the audience and brought Transportation Director Holt Hopkins to the front to ask him questions. County Administrator Rusty Burns, under sharp questioning by Floyd, reminded her that the finance committee also considered the annual operational costs for the bus and route in reaching their decision. That amount, which Floyd failed to mention, would come to $180,000 a year.
At that point, Crowder had heard enough and ruled the entire discussion out of order, citing the requirement that details be provided for agenda matters in advance, and challenging Floyd’s tactics in bringing up an issue that was already voted on by the finance committee.
Floyd called for a point of privilege and again intimated that she was being treated unfairly. “I knew that you would stop me from talking about this.”
Crowder responded, “Well you must have had a crystal ball. I stopped you because of our ordinance requiring advance backup material on the agenda matters, and not just cloaking them under news you can use,” said Crowder.
The Council then proceeded to conduct several items of business, including hearing a report from the ad hoc animal welfare committee; which is currently gathering information in preparation for presenting an ordinance to regulate and prohibit puppy mill breeding operations.
That issue came to the fore several weeks ago, when animal welfare and law enforcement officials seized 126 dogs from such an operation in the Starr area.