Mayor David J. Carucci began his second year in office by praising volunteers, development groups and city staffers for their efforts in attracting some new businesses, boosting some community events, obtaining grants and sprucing up some of the city's infrastructure.
But any positive remarks were overshadowed by sour notes in the mayor's bluntly worded State of the City address Tuesday. He heaped blame upon the Common Council for a lack of progress in financial recovery, and he accused other elected officials of staying away from the municipal buildings except to attend Council sessions.
The mayor, sidestepping the city's specific problems, did not offer possible solutions. For example, he did not mention how he intends to jump-start a badly needed sewer repair project, nor did he explain how capital account funds have been diverted to meet cash flow shortages in the past mayoral administration and in his first year in office.
The speech alluded to the mayor's hope that the Council will eventually pass his $3.4 million bond to pay off a past administration's deficit. And he made only a passing reference to upcoming police and firefighter union talks, which he believes will net $1 million to balance the current budget -- as well as $128,000 to pay for a citywide property reappraisal.
Carucci, seated at the dais with the members of the Council watching from their places at a large table below him, reminded a small audience in the Chamber and cable television viewers that he was elected to use his "business sense" to restore prosperity.
"I have run into many roadblocks during my first year. I am trying to work with the Common Council members who are financially uneducated and unwilling to learn how municipal finances are processed," Carucci said.
He continued with criticism for the Council's push to rehire four crossing guards while also seeking a spending freeze when sewer funds came up missing last month, accusing two unnamed members of the Council of not turning in written comments in advance of the contract negotiations.
He also complained that four aldermen did not ask for financial reports or seek information as the city descended deeper in red ink.
When asked after the meeting whether his speech might harm his working relationship with the Council, Carucci said, "We have got to go forward" to begin the reassessment and borrow money.
Most of the Council members expressed disappointment and even anger after the address and indicated they did not feel the mayor's tone was cooperative.
"I feel like tomorrow I'm going to wake up with a black eye," said Ward 3 Alderman Raymond L. Wangelin, who was chosen to lead the Council as president for a third consecutive year.
He said the mayor is also responsible for decisions in running the city and in his four years of State of the City addresses he had never heard any mayor "slam" the Council or fail to make an effort to start the year off on a positive note, adding that he resented being called uneducated.
Ward 2 Alderman Michael Kayes agreed.
"I have never been called uneducated,and I was appalled at him calling the Council stupid," Kayes said.
Kayes added that the address was also lacking in the area of financial planning.
Several of the aldermen noted that they are not required to agree with the mayor,and Ward 5 Alderman Jefrey Steiner pointed out a good democracy will allow disagreement.
"I didn't really see what the state of the city was" in the address, said Steiner.