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Analysis: Next Alexandria mayor will have problems to tackle (Or Quarterbacking the City of Alexandria) What will Alexandria's new mayor inherit when he or she takes office in December? Money shouldn't be a problem. Rising tax receipts have expanded the budget surplus, or "fund balance," to about $12 million entering the 2006-07 fiscal year that starts May 1. And everyone wants to take credit for this. There will be plenty of economic activity. This year, railroad tank cars will start rolling off the assembly line at Union Tank Car, with employment eventually climbing to more than 800. Cleco will have started building its Rodemacher Unit 3 alternative fuel electricity plant, which during construction will employ more than 1,000. Smaller businesses continue to open and prosper, from cafes to suppliers feeding the big companies. And everyone wants to take credit for this as well. Yet the three candidates who have announced they're running in the September primary see a bevy of problems they'll have to tackle: Budget-busting household utility bills. No organized management of city growth. An unemployed segment of Alexandria that needs training for the area's numerous jobs. A City Council that reaches into the mayor's responsibilities, which creates animosity among officials. "We very carefully and very deliberately need a separation between the legislative and executive branches," said Delores Brewer, chief of staff for Mayor Ned Randolph and who has been a part of his administration since 1990. Brewer announced her candidacy last week. Let's just tell it like it is: The City Council is totally out of line. They are a legislative body performing executive duties, and so far, we have not placed a real check on their power (which is one of the reasons I am personally reluctant to vote for a councilman for mayor). "They (the council) have been doing it so long they think that's the way it's supposed to be done," Brewer said. Right. There's a myth that this is the way the city government is structured. Actually, it's just a bad habit. The mayor should make recommendations, and the council should vote up or down on that recommendation, Brewer said. That's not the way it's happening now. Some council members delve into mayoral business, such as conducting interviews with gas suppliers on their own when that's the mayor's or department directors' responsibilities, she said. "We all need to understand where the line is and respect it," she said. You make an excellent case, Mrs. Brewer. On utility bills, Roosevelt Johnson, an at-large council member who also entered the mayor's race last week, said he'd create a utility commission to advise the mayor, a panel he said would not create an added layer of bureaucracy. I'm interested in how a new commission wouldn't form another layer of bureaucracy. (?) Johnson also said the council's scrutiny of a gas contract recommended by the Randolph administration is prudent because "we want to make sure the people of Alexandria get the best deal we can get" for them. Okay. John Sams, a physician on the Rapides School Board who entered the mayor's race in December, said the city's helter-skelter growth is troubling. Quick question: Will Dr. Sams divest himself of his private practice? Because we need a mayor who will treat this position as a full time job? "The fact that you add a nose, an arm, a hand, then a knee is not the way to grow," he said, lamenting the way subdivision development precedes the development of roads and other infrastructure. Of course we need to make sure that we're building infrastructure in conjunction with subdivision expansion, but I'm more interested to hear his take on in-fill. Sams said the city should look 20 years ahead, planning infrastructure needs: sewage, roads and possibly construction of a large-diameter pipeline eastward that could tap into a number of natural gas pipelines. By itself, the pipeline would give the city bargaining power for less-expensive gas, Sams said. Currently, there is one natural gas pipeline feeding fuel to the city. Sams said the city could use some of the money in its coffers to get the pipeline started. Good idea. Then there is the problem of high unemployment in certain city sectors when there is an abundance of jobs for craft workers in construction and other jobs. Johnson sees the beginning of a solution in city government agreements with training facilities such as trade schools and other training facilities. "We need to meet the needs of the workplace with the needs of the work force," he said, "so we don't leave them (the unemployed) on the street." Empty political rhetoric. What is your real solution? Commissions? Panels? Consultants? Boards?