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The proposal to amend the city’s appropriations ordinance being heard next Monday, March 19 also proposes that:

… upon elimination of any program or service affecting the community, not requiring an amendment to the appropriations ordinance as described above, (more than $4 million or 10 percent of a department, or cumulatively more than $48 without consulting the public or the Council see This Just In the Mayor shall inform the City Council and City Clerk by providing a memo fully describing the change, any resulting service impact and the corresponding fiscal impact. The Clerk shall then include such notification on the next available council docket following receipt of the notice from the Mayor.”

Does this mean that there will then be a public hearing allowing Council and public input on such eliminations? What about mere reductions?

Does it mean that the Council could then take an action to overrule the mayor’s action? Or does this just formalize the ‘we’ll tell you after the fact’ situation that already exists?

This was described by one staffer as the, Don’t Ask, But Do Tell approach. This is to say, the mayor doesn’t want to have to go back to Council to ask for approval of cuts, or take public input in advance on such cuts, but the Council is requiring him to formally inform them and us by publishing a notice in the city’s public docket.

And then what happens?

Just to give a couple of specific questions I’d like answered by proponents of the new proposal:

  • What would be the process for the mayor/city in order to close the dog park near me? (or anywhere)
  • What would the mayor/city be required to do in order to reduce library hours?
  • And to close a library?
  • And if facilities are closed, what happens to the maintenance of properties involved?

What would the mayor/city be required to do to eliminate recreation programs?

These are the kinds of questions that should be answered in advance, instead of just hoping that it won’t come to that. We already know it could come to that.

Some readers may remember that the first skirmish in the power-of-the-purse between the adopted budget, the strong mayor and the City Council, was enjoined by the mayor when he cut recreation programs without notice. This new AO would have required the cuts be listed on the docket, which is surely an improvement over finding out after the fact.

I understand that it would be easier on the Council to let the mayor make decisions without public conflicts. But that’s not how a democracy should be run. An open and transparent democratic process requires public notice and debate as they are struggling with tough choices over public funds.

— CAROLYN CHASE

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