Rennia: Council, mayor playing politics with city streets

By Dave Greber
By Perry Russom

April 9, 2014 Updated Apr 9, 2014 at 11:31 PM EDT

Binghamton, N.Y. (WBNG Binghamton) Binghamton City Council democrats are calling Mayor Rich David’s Capital Improvement Plan “reckless" because it directs money away from public safety.

Monday night, council approved shifting more than $535,000 from the improvement plan to repair roads, according to a news release from Council President and Democrat Teri Rennia. Council denied David’s call to defund what democrats are labeling “important” investments to improve public safety, the release stated.

Democrats are also calling into question the job being done by the Commissioner of Public Works Gary Holmes. They say there is a “lack of planning and direction” by Holmes with hundreds of millions of dollars in ongoing investments. Holmes oversees all of public works.

"The Commissioner is responsible for overseeing more than $120 million in ongoing investments," said Councilwoman Lea Webb, a democrat. "Monday night, we agreed to shift more dollars to help address the potholes created by a bad winter, but the commissioner, who has ultimate responsibility for all capital investments across multiple divisions, came to our work session with no concrete plan and a last minute list of streets scheduled for repair – a list he continued to revise during the meeting."

Democrats are saying Holmes suggested that the result of council’s "unwillingness to agree to the mayor’s proposed budget modifications would be the postponement of the reconstruction of portions of Riverside Drive.

"This is one of the most traveled streets in Binghamton, the design has been completed for nearly a year, and the funds were part of the original capital budget plan discussed last fall," Rennia said.

Council democrats say they are lacking confidence in Holmes’ ability to oversee the city’s projects.

David disagreed, saying there's a difference of opinion on where and how the city should spend taxpayers' money.

“What we have here are competing priorities for the city,” said Mayor Richard C. David. “I believe the priority right now is to reconstruct as many of our broken streets as possible. Some Democrats on City Council believe the highest priority right now is new fire truck. It’s a difference of opinion.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.