Bullock sworn in as NCCo Council President, contract laws approved

By Tom Lehman 1:38am, November 14, 2012 - Updated 3:14pm, November 14, 2012
The new NCCo President Chris Bullock is sworn in. He talks with WDEL.
New Castle County Council welcomes its new president on the same night that two ordinances are passed to increase the group's input and oversight on contract approval at last night's meeting.

The Reverend Chris Bullock has become the first African American president of County Council after he was sworn in to the position, a moment he said, he's pleased to have been part of.

"It's overwhelming and humbling at the same time in light of the struggles of my ancestors in the context of America's rich history and Delaware's history as a part of the underground railroad," he says.

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Bullock says land use, housing and public safety are immediate issues but he considers establishing effective leadership important as well.

"The larger concern is to be an effective parliamentarian and build consensus to take care of the people's business," he says.

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Bullock succeeds Tom Kovach, who took office after winning a 2011 special election that filled the vacancy left by Paul Clark, who assumed the County Executive position after Chris Coons' election to the U.S. Senate. Clark was defeated in last week's election by Tom Gordon, who had served in the position before and was sworn into his former role Tuesday.

Six other councilmen who won reelection last week were also sworn in during the ceremony that occurred before the group's normal meeting.

During the meeting itself, council approved ordinances that prevent the county executive from automatically approving the renewal of some contracts and lowering the money threshold that determines when a contract requires the group's approval from $50,000 to $25,000.

Councilman and ordinance sponsor George Smiley says the resolutions will increase the openness of decisions regarding contracts since it will bring them into a more public forum.

"It actually is opening county government broader to the residents of New Castle County," he says.

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By halving the threshold required for contracts to be approved without council's input, Smiley says some savings could be obtained under extra scrutiny by each of the group's members.

"We have thirteen people with very diverse backgrounds. You never know when something may trigger something in somebody that will help us save money. But if council isn't looking at them, then we're forgoing our responsibility and the possibility of us having input that could result in additional cost savings," he says.

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The two laws received criticism from some councilmen, who argued that the laws were being used to lessen the ability of the new County Executive.

However, Smiley says the laws are intended to give council more involvement in contract approval and they aren't directed at decreasing the power of the county executive.

"I'm not looking at it that way, it's a partnership--it has to be that way if the county's gonna run," he says.

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