Wilmington City Council meets for the first time in 2009 Tuesday night and there will be a new member present. Among the issues on tonight's agenda is a change to the city's panhandling ordinance. After a judge ruled the ban on any solicitation in the downtown business district and historic district, council has come up with a set of restrictions aimed at protecting shoppers and tourists from being bothered downtown. Council is also expected to adopt a resolution supporting an Air Force One museum in the Port City. Margaret Haynes said she's been busy studying ahead of becoming Wilmington's newest city council member. “I've just been reading and attending meetings and trying to get up to speed on things." She and fellow council member Earl Sheridan say one of the big issues council will tackle in 2009 is the planned annexation of Monkey Junction. Haynes said, "In order for the city to maintain its quality of life and to grow and to be a strong city, you need to sort of spread that responsibility." Sheridan noted not every issue this year will be so controversial. "The widening of Randall Parkway, the widening of Independence Blvd., some improvements to Empie Park, and, of course, the development of Olsen Park." Both members say the biggest issue facing the city, though, is the budget. The sagging economy is compounding the shortfall caused by a county tax office error last year. Sheridan said, "It's going to be difficult to deal with that economic downturn." Sheridan and Haynes expect the convention center to help in the long run. But they're not sure what will happen before the facility opens in about a year. Haynes explained, "That is certainly going to be the biggest challenge is where are revenues coming from, what's a really good projection and how are we going to prioritize spending?” The city has already cut spending by five percent. Earl Sheridan thinks there's a good chance it may have to move to its ten-percent plan. Last month council also came up with a plan to cut 15 percent, if necessary.
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