WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Firefighters prevail in the city of Wilmington with defeat of override attempt

Last week, a newly elected Mayor Dennis Williams was humiliated in his first major budget showdown with City Council.

This time, Williams prevailed. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say that public safety concerns prevailed.

This time, Council President Theo Gregory had egg on his face. Some promised votes he was counting on simply didn't materialize, as Council failed to override the mayor's veto of a measure that would have trimmed $511,000 from the fire department's budget. That sum represented eight vacant firefighter positions. The vote was 7-6, but nine votes were required to overturn that mayoral veto.

The turncoat was City Councilman Darius Brown (D-District 3) who first supported trimming the fire department's budget, then voted against the override. Brown exited council chambers even before the formal end of the council session. Plainly, he was in no mood to answer reporters' questions.

No question a depopulated Wilmington needs to shave its expenses, but many questioned whether the fire department was the place to start, rather than the city council itself. (I've long argued the city's cable TV station is hardly a necessity during a time of austerity.)

So ends an epic struggle involving multiple players: The mayor, city council members, firefighters, even New Castle County Council and County Executive Tom Gordon (who warned that a county grant to the city fire department was in jeopardy).

In the process, as prominently displayed on our main news page, WDEL's Amy Cherry uncovered City Councilman At-Large Mike Brown, the token Republican on council, flew back from Florida first class (he had previously said he was in Maryland) at taxpayers' expense (nearly one grand) to make the special session. Of course, the irony couldn't be more searing: Brown flying back on the taxpayers' dime for an austerity vote on trimming the budget. Brown insisted he HAD to fly first class because of a medical condition involving his legs. Brown and Theo Gregory insisted Brown HAD to return to Wilmington to cast a vote for the bill he sponsored.

Posted at 6:23am on July 30, 2014 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jul 30, 2014 10:33am
Amy Cherry did great in the video. Now is Amy digging to find out when Mike Brown flew down to Florida originally on his dime, did he in First Class, or is that only when the people are footing the bill? I noticed in the interview he never said. Go get 'em Amy. THAT's the rest of the story that needs to be told.

Inside "baseball" question for Allan or Chris Carl. Now that you guys are doing video, did you guys offer that interview with Channels 3,6, 10, and 12's news departments? I've noticed
WDEL using feed or stories from Channel 10 and I think I've also heard some from Channel 3. So is that a two way street?

Let's face it, with video, that sort of makes WDEL Wilmington's defacto "TV" news source as well as radio.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Jul 30, 2014 10:52am

Yes, Amy is trying to find out, but Mike Brown isn't saying, and since he paid for the original trip to Florida, that wouldn't be something Council would have access to. Naturally, it would greatly undermine Brown's health argument if it could be ascertained that the councilman did NOT fly first-class to Florida when HE had to pay for it, not city taxpayers.

Amy may NEVER find out, though as Mike Brown presumably would be the only person who HAS that information. (The airline would have that info too, but obviously, cannot be compelled to give out that information.) Amy's trying to reach him, but obviously, she's not his favorite person right now! Interestingly, he has apparently already returned to Florida. And the taxpayers paid for that return trip as well; it was part of the one thousand bucks for a round trip.

WDEL has a formal news exchange agreement with NBC 10 (WCAU-TV), and NBC 10's Delaware reporter occasionally uses our newsroom.

But, our top-of-the-hour CBS News may use audio from KYW Newsradio or CBS 3 (KYW-TV).

And of course, we now carry the "CBS Evening News" (which airs on CBS 3, obviously) at 6:30 p.m. on 1150 A.M. WDEL & www.wdel.com (Only the latter, if the Phillies are on 1150 A.M.)

It gets complicated.

Allan Loudell

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jul 30, 2014 1:23pm
Allan: Thanks for the "inside baseball" stuff.

I have listened to WDEL's audio version of CBS Evening News quite often. I rarely am ready to sit in front of TV at 6:30 p.m., but can listen to WDEL or WDEL.com almost anywhere, work, car, home on the radio, at any computer, I-pod, etc, so WDEL airing the TV network news was great for someone like me.

I give Chris Carl and the staff of WDEL a lot of credit for being very creative in today's world where your brand is very available, and for a Wilmingtonian, pretty much our only OTA media source of local news.

A sidenote, I listen to WDEL at work on-line, and the other day caught Rick Jensen's video ad for PJ Fitzpatrick. He accidentally throws his screwdriver through his window in his garage. He did pretty good with that; it was a funny bit. Good commercial. Wish his show was as entertaining. It was nice to see another side of him though.

Wed, Jul 30, 2014 2:05pm
A) My understanding is that these vacant positions have been vacant for many years, so they haven't been spending that money for many years. Must they be filled immediately? If so, how many members of Williams' family and friends will fill those positions?

B) Brown booked his flight (if he paid for it himself and not from campaign funds) on the cheapest flight possible. The return flight was all the free money he has to spend, so he might as well live large and enjoy the confines of the first class seats. And his 'leg' issue is that he is obese.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jul 30, 2014 3:21pm
Different topic:

Interesting side bar to Obamacare. It is helping some folks to be able to retire earlier.


Thu, Jul 31, 2014 9:17am
Having just flown back from Florida myself another possibility might have happened...

Most Florida flights fill up weeks before they fly out. This case, needing one day notice it is quite possible that only a first class seat could be found... That should have been Browns excuse instead of his legs... But regardless, if you need someone to fly up and vote on their vacation, you had better make it worth their while...

Just now looking at a discount flight finder featuring a former actor from the original Star Trek, there were 5 flights bringing me in from Orlando that would get me in for a meeting tonight... They ranged from $464 to $880... Add additional charges, and the latter approaches 1000. So at most we are discussing a difference of 416 dollars which on a city budget of $150 million comes to a whooping 0.000273 of one percent, something easily made up elsewhere in the budget...

So it is really a big hoopla over nothing. In the same situation, I'd fly first class as well.. not because it is wasteful, because it is smart.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jul 31, 2014 1:54pm
What about Frontier's flights to New Castle from Orlando?

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