Thursday, November 20, 2008

“No Vote” On Budget.

I voted against the 2009 West Lafayette City budget for several reasons:

1) The budget process was not transparent. It is unreasonable to suggest that bright and experienced people had nothing of consequence to report to the Budget & Finance Committee for three months. This is particularly so when there were significant changes made in the areas of employee salary, pension, and health care from July until October. Maybe next year.

2) The Wastewater Utility will be drained. (Sorry about the pun.) The utility’s reserves, built at some political expense by the Democrats, will be exhausted by this budget. The transfer of over one million dollars in costs to the utility makes claims of fiscal conservatism and budget clarity seem odd.

3) It is a “Weak Mayor” Budget. Former Mayor Sonya Margerum persuaded me here. Sonya thought this shift of all mayoral budget lines to the clerk treasurer lacked both transparency and accountability, and would create problems for future mayors.

4) I have continued to obsess about the clandestine way in which funds were manipulated without council discussion for the demolition of Burtsfield School. What else is hidden in the nooks and crannies of this budget? There was $150,000 we might have saved. . .

5) There is no real raise here for city employees. How could any Democrat support that? Threats to cut staff? Please . . . The Democratic caucus proposed several budget cuts worth over $500,000 WITHOUT REDUCING STAFF. (We even left in a $34,000 deal with Little League baseball .) The Mayor voted against all of them. Blame the prior administration? An old Republican trick. Some Republicans still blame Bill Clinton for the market collapse.

A city budget is not the Ten Commandments. It does not come down from God in stone. Women and men make a series of decisions based on the data and out of their biases. If the administration chooses to cut staff over the objections of the Council majority, it will be because in these tough times it has chosen pavement over people.

6) Charlotte Martin. I think her precipitous dismissal was done more for political than for economic reasons. The manner and timing of her removal from city hall showed a disregard for her and her family’s 30 years of service to this community.

7) A year ago, the Republican party and the media treated us to a lecture on the weather. The excess levy tax “mistake” made by the clerk treasurer was really a cloud with a silver lining, we were told. We don’t need the money. Okay. You win.

We don’t need the money. I don’t want to raise taxes in a recession. If the Republicans want a tax increase, let all of them vote for what is now their tax increase. Democrats get tired of being labeled the party of “tax and spend”.

8) It is a long-standing Republican campaign device to suggest that by some gift of nature Republicans once elected can root out all waste and produce some sort of “management dividend” that is a peculiar magic of their party. Having laid that boast to rest at the national level, let us now do the same at the local level. Budgetary léger de main and a tax increase do not demonstrate a special management skill.

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