News

January 11, 2003

The Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred urged the General Assembly to repeal the law expanding and reapportioning New Castle County Council pending further study to determine its 'appropriate' size.

"We have to take another look at this. Is it necessary to double country government?" said Rick Browne, chairman of the civic council's committee concerned with the issue. In any event, he added, the issue has to be decided between now and the time the Assembly adjourns at the end of June because, once Council is expanded, it is almost certain that it will not be reduced in size.

The law requires reapportioning the county from six into 12 districts in time for the 2004 election. The president of council would continue to be elected on a countywide basis. In preparation for the change, all six Council members were required to stand for election to four-year terms in 2002. They will continue to serve past 2004 while six new seats would be filled for four years.

While there has been some attempts to change that since the law was enacted several years ago, the legislature has not shown much inclination to do so. County Council's official position is that the body should have nine members plus a president. Council president Christopher Coons said  that he received "a pleasant, polite but cool reception" in Dover when he lobbied for that last year.

Brandywine Council president Daniel Bockover told the Brandywine Council's meeting on Jan. 9 that state Representative Robert Valihura has agreed to introduce a resolution when the Assembly convenes to establish a legislative committee "to study the issue to see if there is a need for change." Valihura did not attend the meeting. The only legislator there was Charles Copeland, who will take his seat in the state Senate on Jan. 14. He did not comment on the matter.

Bockover strongly pushed for the civic organization to take the initiative to lobby for repealing the law, claiming at one point that "something rather awful is going to happen to New Castle County" if it does not do so.

Although after announcing Valihura's intention Bockover quipped, "When you are a legislator, a good way to handle a problem is to do a study," support for the lawmaker's plan was included in a four-part resolution passed by  26-to-3 margin.

The resolution also called for the present law to be 'rescinded' -- presumably meaning it should be repealed -- and for County Council to again formally declare how large it thinks it ought to be and for calling upon Governor Ruth Ann Minner to take a position.

Discussion leading up to the vote found participants advocating support for a Council of varying sizes. William Narcowich, president of the Civic League for New Castle County, said that organization favors having eight Council members, largely on the grounds that the present arrangement allots only one representative to the large and rapidly developing southern half of the county.

Narcowich challenged Ernie Cragg's objection to expanding County Council noting that, as a Republican Party official, he supported an unsuccessful effort to expand both chambers of the General Assembly during the 2002 reapportionment battle.. "At the state level, Republicans want to increase [the size of the legislature] but the the county level, they have a different position," Narcowich said. Cragg is chairman of Brandywine Council's legislative committee.

Harvey Rubenstein, who introduced the resolution that was approved, said he supported the idea of a legislative study commission because it would allow whatever is ultimately done to receive "due consideration, which I do not think occurred when the [present] legislation was passed."

He said that expanding from six to 12 Council districts, would cost county taxpayers more than an additional half million dollars a year in salaries and employment benefits for members and their aides part from additional costs for such things as office space and supplies.

Marion Stewart said her main objection to an enlarged Council is that "it will subject us to listening to 13 speeches on every action instead of the seven we get now."

2003. All rights reserved.

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