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Votes

Council Notebook

<b>Calculating Budgets</b>

How much will the city’s budget increase next year? Apparently, the answer depends upon what the meaning of the word "budget" is. Although next year’s budget will increase 5.2 percent from the one approved by the City Council in May 2006, that’s not the number included in a May 7 press release issued by the city manager’s office. Instead, the written statement described the fiscal year 2008 budget "a 4.4-percent increase."

So what’s up? Did the budget increase 5.2 percent or 4.4 percent?

According to <b>Bruce Johnson</b>, director of the city’s Office of Budget and Management, the 4.4-percent calculation is based on the city’s amended budget of last year — a total that included millions of dollars that were added after a vote in June that tacked more than $3 million onto the budget by raising salaries for all city workers. The vote added $20,000 to City Manager<b> Jim Hartmann</b>’s annual salary — increasing his yearly earnings from $193,153 to $213,787. The amended total also included extra money for the city’s Department of Human Services.

"We think the amended total is a fair starting point," said Johnson.

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<b>Calculating Life</b>

How much does a life cost? It’s an impossible philosophical quandary, yet that doesn’t stop lawyers from quibbling over numbers. In a closed-door session Tuesday night at City Hall, City Council members considered a settlement agreement in the wake of a Feb. 25, 2006 shooting in which an Alexandria Police officer killed a Springfield teenager when he shot into a moving vehicle. Officer <b>Carl Stowe</b> was eventually acquitted of any wrongdoing by Commonwealth’s Attorney <b>S. Randolph Sengel</b>, who issued a 52-page report on the incident.

"Officer Stowe thought he was about to be run over," said<b> Jim Lay</b>, counsel to the Alexandria police union, during an interview last year. "When the administrative process has concluded, it will make clear that Officer Stowe performed in a manner that’s consistent with existing policies."

Lay’s prediction was correct, and Stowe returned to the force after Police Chief <b>David Baker </b>called for "major disciplinary action" against the officer. Although Baker refused to release the results of his investigation, a spokesman for the department later indicated that Stowe would receive anywhere from 3 to 30 days of suspension without pay — the only option under the law short of firing him. Last month, the Brown family sent a letter to the city asserting their right to bring a civil suit against the city for the wrongful death of their son, initiating an effort to forge a settlement between the two parties.

"On Tuesday night, the council authorized the city attorney’s office to work on a settlement of case," said Pessoa.

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<b>The New Vice Mayor</b>

Former Vice Mayor <b>Andrew Macdonald</b> never seemed comfortable on the public stage. He rarely attended community events, and looked uneasy when he did. Yet representing the city is one of the preeminent duties of the vice mayor.

With that in mind, Councilman <b>Rob Krupicka</b> offered a motion Tuesday night to elect Councilwoman <b>Del Pepper</b> as the city’s next vice mayor — a job that she’s held twice before. Krupicka said that she deserved the position because she received more votes than any other current member of council and because of her tireless appearances at community events and public functions.

"I don’t know if anyone knows exactly how old Del is, and we won’t ask her," said Councilman <b>Ludwig Gaines</b>, who seconded the motion. "But she has the energy of someone 30 years all of our junior, no matter what our age is."

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<b>Council Cyclist</b>

Maybe Pepper’s secret is knowing when to say no. During a discussion of the Arlington-Alexandria Community Bike Ride, Councilman Krupicka told his colleagues that the 23-mile ride would start promptly at 8 a.m. on June 3. The newly elected vice mayor chimed in to let him know that the starting time seemed a little early for her.

"Rob, we’ll let you represent us," said Pepper.

"You’re a pretty good biker," Krupicka responded.

"8 a.m.?" Pepper asked. "That’s for you."