Today’s first City Council session of 2012 will be marked by an infusion of new blood, with six new members joining the fray and Councilman Darrell Clarke taking the helm as president.
“This is the largest class of freshman councilmembers in anybody’s memory, so I think they’ll bring energy and new ideas to City Council,” said Zack Stalberg of political watchdog Committee of Seventy.
But don’t expect the freshman members to have a bond like 2008's class of Councilmembers Maria Quinones Sanchez, Bill Green and Curtis Jones Jr., who became so tight during training sessions — which discuss ethics and legislative process — that they often voted together to effect change.
The three were all members of the same political party and were largely expected to win, incoming Councilman David Oh pointed out. This year's election was hotly contested and extremely close, so, in some cases, several hopefuls for each seat were invited to participate in the training classes. “I think that took away from the opportunity for a group to coalesce,” Oh said.
But Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson and Bobby Henon are optimistic about working together.
“Without question, there’s a bond between the six of us who are coming in,” Henon said. “But we have not forged any commitments to vote as a bloc — we all have different districts with different interests.”
“We will have to see,” Johnson said. “We all have a working relationship. A lot of us went through the same courses that the former three members went through and I'm pretty sure when issues are germane to the city, all of the districts will work together.”
Though Henon is the only councilmember Metro interviewed who plans to introduce legislation today, all of the newcomers have agendas.
Henon said he will introduce some district-related zoning resolutions and a resolution to review the city's information technology systems, which he says are out of date.
Johnson plans to establish two task forces: a ‘Peace Not Guns’ task force to reduce gun violence through a partnership between family court, the school district and the Department of Human Services and a ‘Jobs and Career’ task force.
Oh plans to prioritize job creation, crime reduction and sustainable educational opportunities in his first year, basing legislation on research and objective data.