City Council revises ‘empowerment zone’ resolution

Mackenzie Freund, City Editor

The Charleston City Council voted Tuesday to reconsider a resolution that was passed in the beginning of April regarding workers’ empowerment zones.

The council then unanimously voted to place a revised version of the resolution that originally supported some of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s initiatives for right-to-work zones on file for public inspection. All four council members and Mayor Larry Rennels were present.

Based on public comments from the April 21 meeting and other communications raising concerns, the council removed some sections of the resolution and changed some wording for clarification in the proposed revision.

Rennels said one criticism the council received was that the public did not have enough time to provide input on the resolution, so the council rescinded the previous one and put a revision on file to be voted on next meeting.

The revised resolution omits the sections about local empowerment zones and prevailing wage. It also adds a section about the employment of local residents.

The added section states, “Current state law hinders locally owned businesses who employ local residents from bidding on local projects and contracts thus reducing the pool of bidders and increasing the cost to the municipality.”

Another addition to the resolution was toward the end, where it states, “the City of Charleston supports discussion on major reforms in state government, to be cooperatively negotiated between the governor’s office, General Assembly and local elected leaders…”

Residents voiced more of their opinions on the plans for adopting empowerment zones in Charleston.

Charles Delman, a Charleston resident, said he saw no change in the new resolution from the original.

Delman said local control is good as long as the effects stay local, which does not always happen.

“Most of what we do locally has wide repercussions for others,” Delman said. “Our governing procedures must consider those who are affected.”

Charles Hughes, a Charleston resident, went before the council and asked that when they re-consider the resolution, they keep the community in mind, not the politics.

Jonathan Blitz, a chemistry professor at Eastern, said it is shameful that the council did not pass the resolution through the public and tried to put the resolution into the consent agenda to prevent controversy.

“When noticed there was public outcry, the council was backed up and is passing a resolution that stinks ever so slightly less than the original,” Blitz said.

The council passed the original resolution on April 7 as part of the consent agenda in which members emailed one another about specifics beforehand. The resolution was advertised on the agenda, but the council did not seek comment from Charleston residents before passing it.

The council will vote on the resolution at the May 19 meeting after it has been reviewed. It is available on the city council website.

The council also voted Tuesday to increase the ambulance ordinance rates by 3 percent beginning June 1.

The council voted council member Brandon Combs to the new mayor pro-tempore for the upcoming year to act in place of the residing mayor if necessary.


Mackenzie Freund can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].