Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Holidays Need YOUR Help!

Each year, the City of Belle Isle holds a toy and food drive for needy families. This event helps over 150 local families per year, but it needs your support to make sure that these families don't get left in the cold. This year's donation drive is organized by Vice Mayor Lydia Pisano, and she is requesting additional donations as soon as possible.

The City especially needs toys for 8-12 year old boys, and I was thrilled to learn that many of these boys aren't looking for video games and inside toys, but active toys like sports balls! It felt great to drop off a bunch of new soccer balls, footballs, and basketballs, but the city clerk said many more are still needed along with other types of toys for boys and girls.

Donations of new, unwrapped toys for children and teens as well as non-perishable food items will be accepted through December 23. You can drop off your donations at Belle Isle City Hall, 1600 Nela Avenue, or the Conway Café, 4542 Hoffner Avenue.

And don't forget to mark your calendar for Santa's yearly ride through Belle Isle this Thursday, December 17 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., where he will be distributing free toys to neighborhood children. Track Santa's progress at belleislesantafinder.com to see when he will be in your neighborhood!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Belle Isle City Manager Resigns

On December 1, 2015, the Belle Isle City Council voted 6-1 to accept the resignation of City Manager Keith Severns. Under the agreement, Mr. Severns will receive salary for an additional six months, as permitted under the terms of his contract with the City. During this six month period, Mr. Severns will continue to serve as city manager for a maximum of four months, or until the council appoints an interim city manager. For the remainder of the six-month period, Mr. Severns will serve as a consultant to the new or interim city manager.

As expected, Mr. Severns brought his core supporters to the meeting, most of whom made statements about how much they will miss Mr. Severns as our city manager. Many also admonished the council for accepting his resignation, despite the fact that this resignation was endorsed by every commissioner except Commissioner Ady, as well as by the mayor and city attorney. But even those admonishments were kept to a heated but respectful level.

Unfortunately, not all of Mr. Severns' supporters were able to maintain the level of dignity and restraint shown at the meeting. Following the meeting, former council candidate Larry Miles issued a statement simultaneously endorsing the reelection of Commissioner Shuck (a vocal supporter of Mr. Severns) while describing Commissioner Readey (presently battling leukemia) as a "corpse."

But while a period of negativity from Mr. Severns' core supporters is understandable, I share Mayor Brooks' optimism that the solution reached at the December 1 meeting will allow Belle Isle to move forward working with a city manager who inspires the faith and support of all our City's residents.

BIPD Officer Retention Update

At the December 1, 2015 City Council meeting, Belle Isle Police Chief Rich Ring provided an update on the BIPD officer retention issue explored in the previous article: Attend Tonight's Meeting to Support Our BIPD!

Chief Ring's presentation and the ensuing discussion did not produce any definite plan for increasing officer retention in our City, but left the door open for further discussion. Commissioner Nielsen indicated that the residents of Belle Isle, if asked, might be willing to dedicate a bit more of the City budget towards enacting a solid plan to retain some of our most talented officers.

Chief Ring has hired some great new officers during his term at Belle Isle, and he is correct that there will always be officer turnover in a small city like ours. But there is no substitute for experience and wisdom, especially in the kinds of legal and life or death matters that our officers face on a regular basis, and our City should have a goal of keeping some of its long-term officers on the force.

Chief Ring also referenced the Sun's November 3 article about the BIPD, articulating his concern that my statement regarding two talented Belle Isle officers who would "soon be leaving the BIPD" might be misinterpreted by readers to mean that these officers had already left the BIPD. In case that is so, please be assured that these officers are still with the BIPD for the time being while seeking new employment.

This means there might still be a hope for our city council to come together and agree on a solution that would keep one or both of these officers at the BIPD, or at least increase the officer retention rate as we move forward.

This officer retention issue is complex and cannot necessarily be fixed just by throwing a little money at the problem. But citizen input is always helpful, so if you have thoughts on this matter, please contact your commissioners.