The position of Community and Economic Development Director appears safe based on the informal consensus among common council members at the end of the budget hearing meeting held Tuesday night. However, members appeared steadfast on removing the Corporation Counsel’s assistant and rolling back his previous year’s 2% raise.
Robert van Hasseln spoke at length during the meeting, talking about additional projects he was working on beyond those highlighted in his previous testimonials before the council.
In response to the council’s request for details on some of the “smaller projects” he was working on, he recounted one example saying, “On Main St…I went down to the owner of La Piazza [Social Club] who was holding his downstairs store for storage of old dry cleaning equipment. And I was finally able to convince him – look you’re never going to be able to sell that. I can get you a place to store it, but frankly, you should just scrap it and go out and rent to someone new. Finally he agreed and now there’s a new store there.”
According to von Hasseln, other agencies involved in economic development, such as AIDA, the URA and Montgomery County have all indicated they are not able to pick up the work that he is currently doing. He also suggested that he could save the city money by coordinating the update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan rather than hiring a consultant to do the work.
Alderman Ron Barone said the council previously took out the position because, “I felt the accountability wasn’t there and there are a lot of people in the county [who] could fill in…[Alderwoman Valerie Beekman] wants to give him another chance for another year. I’ll honor that with the rest of the council.”
Barone also said Alderman Richard Leggerio had spoken to him about keeping the position. As a condition, Barone asked that von Hasseln report to the council in person every month, to which Von Hasseln agreed. Von Hasseln also said he agreed with Barone’s idea to form an Economic Development Committee to help with the work that needed to be done.
According to council members, there will be a special meeting on Thursday at 7:00pm to vote on their proposed changes to the budget. The mayor can then issue a “line item” veto on any individual change. The common council can override the veto with a 2/3 majority vote.