Mayor resigns at Cambridge city meeting

Victoria Jackson-Stanley photo

Cambridge Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley.

CAMBRIDGE — “Effective March 31, 2016 I must step down as Mayor for the City of Cambridge.”

Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley shocked most of the people in the Council chambers with her announcement at the start of the Monday evening meeting. She read aloud a letter to the Commissioners and to the public as well. Many were dumbfounded. She explained that after 40 years on the State payroll and retirement system, and “after much soul-searching and prayer and with mixed emotions,” she had made the decision to retire from her Social Services job. She explained that since the State retirement system is the same system as that of Cambridge, she is required to retire from both her Social Services job and her position as mayor. According to the City Charter, the mayoral vacancy from April 1 to the Citywide election on July 12, 2016 will be filled by the President of the City Council, Commissioner Donald Sydnor.

Mayor Jackson-Stanley was born, raised, and had her successful professional career in the City of Cambridge. Her family goes back many generations, as far back as slavery, and goes forward with grandchildren, so she gave this move a lot of thought. She said, “While I still feel good and I am healthy, I want to rest and get my house in order.” She literally means giving her own house needed attention. While she may have mixed emotions, the conflict gives way to Daddy’s advice. Said the Mayor, “Daddy always said, ‘you never know if you’re going in the right direction till you make the first step’ and I’m making the first step in this new direction.”

After the Mayor’s surprise announcement, the Commissioners took up the planned agenda. The Council gave approvals to two requests for scheduled events and noise variances. LaTeasha Macer represents the MS Walk which starts and ends at the Refuge Temple of God, traveling two miles through local streets, on May 21. Brandon Hesson, executive director of Main Street Cambridge was approved for the major event, Taste of Cambridge, with a Crab-Cookoff. It will take place on the 500 block of Poplar Street and the 400 Block of Race Street from 5 until 10 p.m. on July 9. A banner will hang over Race Street. Thousands are expected to attend.

A first reading of Ordinances 1065-1068 and 1070 introduced some fine tuning to ordinances concerning UDC codes, on-site residency requirements, property management and monetary limits for repairs, as well. Ordinance 1070 changed the official times of council meetings to 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.
But it was Ordinance 1069 that perked up interest. This was a second reading of the ordinance that leases a two-acre piece of the Sailwinds Property to Yacht Maintenance for 30 years at a greatly increased rental. That ordinance was approved by Council.
An innovative, comprehensive midyear analysis of the city’s budget was submitted by Finance Director Ginger Heatwole. With the fiscal year starting in June 2015, the midyear Dec. 31, 2015 profile was a presentation of the city’s finance status halfway through the fiscal year, with comparisons to the previous year clearly displayed. Council appreciated the answer to the question, “How are we doing?”

A budget amendment resulted from a grant from the Maryland Smart Energy Committe of $30,660. The money will be used for expansion of LED lighting at the Public Safety Building which should result in a reduction of utility costs. The money will buy materials, public works employees will supply the labor.

The Police Department also presented a report that dealt with numbers, not so much dollars as crime statistics and changes in department. The organizational chart is changed, the number of new police officers is increased by five, the starting salary for certified police officers was increased by council and the department became more competitive with other area police forces. Innovations included body-worn cameras which provide both community and police officers more security. Higher crime numbers, including juvenile crime, indicate the growing opioid addiction and the improved community communication. Chief Dvorak maintains that victims are reporting crimes because they are expecting action now. He says that people are recognizing the need to report crimes in contrast to a “don’t bother, nothing will happen” attitude. He also says tours and a citizens’ police academy have opened up the previously closed building to the public. The Annual Police Report also contains statistics on traffic enforcement,arrests, and emergencies, as well as notable events like the re-opening of the Pine Street Substation.

Commissioner Robbie Hanson followed up on complaints at the last Council meeting about the state of disrepair of the Empowerment Center, a city-owned building.
He visited the site, assessing the damage and needed repairs. Working with Oden Wheeler, director of Public Works, Commissioner Hanson estimated the repairs to cost about $20,000. Since the city owns the building, some commissioners expressed a sense of obligation and urgency to fix the facility. The money, they said, is available, and a promise was extracted to get it done.

Final items: Commissioner Frank Cooke held a meeting on Thursday night in Council Chambers to give his constituents (and any else who wanted to attend) a platform to express their hopes and plans for the Sailwinds development. On Feb. 17, the Council work session will focus on Sailwinds and there will also be opportunity for public comment.

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