I greeted the Peters/Young plan to reach a compromise with City strongman mayor Jerry “I’ll cut it if I want to” Sanders with a combination of shock and awe. Shock that the council leader is actually making a reasoned overture to the Mayor after a plethora of mean-spirited platitudes that have been exchanged between the two over the last several weeks. And awe that such a reasoned proposal for civic harmony might emerge from our usually dysfunctional municipal family.
So I say, “Bravo,” one and all. With two little teeny-tiny exceptions.
First, a technical note. While the idea to grant Gentleman Jerry unilateral authority to shift around monies up to 10% of the budget or $4 million dollars is actually too generous a concession by the Council. My original beef with the Council plan to strip the Mayor of any budgetary discretion was that it was an ill-conceived usurpation of Mayoral authority. If the Council wanted to protect explicit programs they need to detail that portion of the budget down to the departmental object code level and not just lazily protect everything in the budget from Mayoral oversight.
The downside of the current proposed compromise is that it now allows the Mayor carte blanche authority over any and all City programs without the right of the Council to protect those programs and services that they deem should be preserved and protected.
So my compromise to the compromise would be to insert the phrase “unless otherwise specified in the Budget by a majority of the Council” or some such legalese that would preserve to the Council the right to identify key programs as, effectively, “untouchable” by the Mayor’s discretionary axe. As long as the Council is willing to do the hard thinking ahead of time to identify which programs are really essential in their minds, it is their authority and right to put such protections into the budget.
The rest? Swing that axe of budgetary restraint, Jer’.
My second quibble, it breaks my heart to say, is with Darling Donna, my erstwhile champion of public interest on the Council. There is sometimes a fine line between being principled and obstructionist and, on this issue, I think Donna is pushing that line. The bottom line here is that the City’s voters did approve a Strong Mayor system (flawed as the current language of the provision may be—same number of council votes necessary to overturn the Mayor’s veto of a council action as is required to pass such action? Please.) and, as such, she needs to recognize that the traditional power balance has been changed. As per my discussion above, is she is not willing to put the extra effort in to identify in advance what parts of the budget are important to her, she can’t do so post facto to the passage of the budget.
So Donna, let this one go. Support the compromise with my compromise attached. That should satisfy everyones’ concerns