The report’s recommendations, including its most significant, remain.
- The report still lists municipal bankruptcy as a last-ditch option for the city, though caveats have been added. The task force no longer recommends preparing now for bankruptcy and adds a line saying that the city has never recommended bankruptcy.
- Bankruptcy, the task force says, should be considered if the city cannot solve recurring budget deficits through the solutions the group suggests.
- It outlines a plan to require the city to slash expenses and raise revenues if deficits persist. It recommends taking a ballot initiative before voters in November to eliminate 1,500 employees paid by the day-to-day operating budget, or 20 percent of the city’s workforce, if the city doesn’t undergo long-term budget solutions.
- City workers, more than anyone else, will feel pain if the task force’s ideas are implemented. Aside from the ballot initiative, the report recommends curtailing or eliminating retiree health care, outsourcing entire departments and amending the city charter to decrease or get rid of union employees.
- Revenue increases, in the form of new taxes or fees, are listed as the second-to-last option.
The report has harsh words for all levels of political decision-makers for failing to address these problems in the past. It also criticizes the budget plan passed last week for relying too much on one-time solutions that won’t be around to address the deficit next year.
But in an interview, Vince Mudd, the task force’s chairman, applauded Sanders and the City Council for the steps they’ve taken so far this year to address the $200 million deficit. He said this year’s cuts were a prelude to deeper cuts the city would have to make soon.
I asked Mudd about the task force’s connection with the mayor. The group and Sanders have disagreed over how much the mayor asked the task force to do. Sanders distanced himself from the group last month, saying he didn’t initiate it — that its members came to him.
The report says the task force is part of the “Civic Leadership Team,” a group of business leaders dedicated to pushing Sanders’ agenda. Mudd reiterated that in the interview, but said the Mayor’s Office was “hands off” in its approach toward the group.
“We were going to give it to them as business folks saying that we’ve done this dive and here’s what we’ve discovered, and all these folks believe that what our recommendations are going to be are going to be solid,” Mudd said. “I don’t know if the city has ever had kind of an independent group do that before.”
Sanders declined to comment on the report’s findings, saying he hadn’t read it or the draft yet.
— LIAM DILLON