Next City Council President Should Be Most Capable Member

The unofficial results of last week’s election in Jamestown puts Jamestown Democrats in a tough position.

Greg Rabb, the sitting council president, sits fifth in the race for three at-large positions on the council until the county Board of Elections counts absentee ballots. The council’s longest-serving members are Republicans Tony Dolce, R-Ward 2, and Kim Ecklund, R-At Large. Brent Sheldon, R-Ward 1, has served six years. Democrats on the council are incumbents Vickye James, D-Ward 3; Marie Carrubba, D-Ward 4; Maria Jones, D-Ward 5; and Tom Nelson, D-Ward 6. Newcomers are Republicans Andy Liuzzo, R-At Large, and Vanessa Weinert, D-At Large.

Who, then, should lead the council?

The Jamestown City Charter spells out only limited duties for the council president: forming the council’s standing committees, setting the council’s agenda, running council meetings, and signing off on documents if the mayor is out of town or unavailable.

In the right hands, the job can mean much more. The council president can be setting not only the formal business agenda, but an agenda of the types of actions he or she wants to see the council’s standing committees tackling. The council president can make sure a standing committee’s agenda includes things like a report on what crime the police department is dealing with, issues the fire department may be having that the public should know about or have the standing committees lead in-depth discussions of the budget or housing or a host of other issues that city residents want to see resolved.

Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney’s time as council president saw a focus on housing issues and a council that worked together. John Calamunci’s time as council president was a time of change and activism with the council presidency in the hands of someone who wasn’t bound by the idea of doing things the way they had always been done.

Who among the council members currently slated to take office in January has stated a clear policy or goal? Among the four returning Democrats, neither James, Jones or Nelson has taken on a particularly vocal role on the council over the past several years. Carrubba is likely the best choice among Democrats, though we’re not certain she’s the best choice among all council members.

That person, in our minds, is either Dolce or Ecklund. Ecklund was first elected to the council in 2003 and has experience on three of the four council committees while also serving on the Jamestown Local Development Corporation, the Parks, Recreation and Conservation Commission, the Riverfront Management Council Commission and the Mayor’s Task Force on Efficiency and Cost Reduction. Dolce is the longest-tenured council member by far with 22 years of experience on the council. He has chaired citywide task forces and been involved in the Urban Design Plan and the Neighborhood Revitalization plan. Dolce also has experience on all four of the council’s standing committees and serves on the Jamestown Local Development Corporation.

The next president of the Jamestown City Council shouldn’t be decided based on party affiliation. Instead, the position should be given to the most capable member of the council. This year, given the circumstances Jamestown faces in the coming couple of years, that person would seem to be Ecklund or Dolce.