A group of rude and unruly people – some from the townships – disrupted Tuesday’s Bradford City Council meeting to the point where Mayor Tom Riel threatened to adjourn the meeting early.
While the eight or so were loud enough that council and the media had to ask them to quiet down, the rest of the standing-room-only crowd was polite and respectful.
The antics came about when council was asked about several issues including business privilege tax, a proposed storm water fee and the crime rate.
Mayoral candidate Paul Berg, who seemed to be making statement rather than asking a question, wanted to know why General Electric (parent company of Dresser’s) does not pay a business privilege tax.
Riel and City Solicitor Mark Hollenbeck tried to explain that the Interstate Commerce Clause precludes them from paying it. Riel also added that the companies that don't pay the business privilege tax contribute to the city in other ways, for example donating to projects like the Congress Street revitalization.
A claim that businesses are being driven out of Bradford was met from council with the fact that 14 new businesses opened in the downtown business district alone last year.
Berg also asked about the city’s crime rate supposedly doubling over the last few years, according to one website. Riel told him, “Those statistics are as skewed as your ideas are,” and then asked Police Chief Chris Lucco if he wanted to address that “nonsense.”
The short answer is, “Their numbers are inaccurate,” Lucco said.
For example, because the website classifies the crimes incorrectly, it says there were 90 murders, rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies in Bradford one year.
“There were not 90 of those,” Lucco said. “I’m positive of that.” You can find the actual statistics on our Facebook page, http://facebook.com/1490wesb. (Provided by City of Bradford Police.)
Riel explained that, under the proposal, the one-third of properties in the city that are tax-exempt would have to pay the fee just like everyone else. He said, for example, there are three properties that should pay $150 in property taxes. But one of them is tax-exempt so, when tax money is used for infrastructure improvement, the two, in effect, pay $75 while the third pays nothing. With the fee, all three would pay $50, theoretically lowering property taxes.
Council said nothing is set in stone and they are still looking into imposing the fee, and also suggested that people Google “Meadville stormwater management” to see how it works.
One of the well-mannered people at the meeting, Players Downtown owner Jim Pingie, was concerned about how the building collapse at 3-5 Main Street would affect his buildings on Mechanic Street.
Riel said the city is waiting to hear from its engineer Roy Pedersen, but the city is more than happy to work with him the best they can.