Macon's money problems, communication on tap for discussion at City Council retreat

Macon City Council members are retreating here for two days to plan for the coming year and take a big-picture look at what is going on in their wards.

Attendance at this morning’s session was light. Only six members showed up before the group broke for lunch – President Miriam Paris, Rick Hutto, Larry Schlesinger, Mike Cranford, Ed DeFore and Alveno Ross. A few more are expected to arrive in the afternoon.

The retreat is being funded by grant funds that Mayor Robert Reichert received when he entered office. The mayor and his staff will join council members for dinner tonight before holding their own retreat activities Saturday.

Paris said her primary goal for the session is for council members to leave “knowing exactly what our role is, what our responsibility is … to each other, to the community and to the administration.”

“I think they’re very separate, but at the same time they overlap,” she said.

And once those roles have been clearly understood, there will be more opportunity to do quietly the work that needs to be done and less chance for distracting conflict, she said.

As council members started to identify the major issues confronting the city, Macon’s money problems were near the top of the list. But so was establishing effective communication between Reichert’s office and the council. Council members said that was a top priority coming out of their retreat here last year, but they had not seen the improvement they hoped for. As examples, they cited no forewarning of former Economic and Community Development Director Kevin DuBose’s departure or of Reichert’s state of the city address to members of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce.

“We have repeated this (need for communication) throughout the year, and it seems to me to not be getting any better,” Cranford said.

Also, council members this morning tried to stress that they do in fact like each other. They said many people do not realize that, because when they engage in vigorous debate they are portrayed in the media as “bickering.”

“But that’s left in the chamber,” Ross said. “We don’t hate each other.”