Random image: Confederate VioletsI went to Monday's budget session despite having other things on my mind and when I got home and tried to write about the meeting, it was just so hard to describe that I gave up.
These meetings are supposed to be a final step in the long process that begins with departmental and division requests from all directors and managers. The administration is supposed to review and can modify the requests before compiling them in a budget document. The City Council introduces the budget and then it is their turn to review, modify if necessary and pass it.
In this case, the budget process spans two administrations, one with a lame duck outgoing mayor and a new one with her political arch-enemy in charge - not exactly a recipe for collegiality. While city staff largely remains the same, department heads and cabinet members changed and have to get up to speed with the ongoing budget process.
Although the new administration has brought on a finance director who can cite facts and figures like a boss, some council members have chosen to dominate the 2014 budget meetings with political barbs and demands to know what staff does (readily accessible in the Municipal Code, the city web site and even in the big budget books before them). Commentary falls back on cliches such as "top-heavy" and statements such as "we just can't afford some of this stuff."
There seems to be a disregard on the part of some council members for what the finance director and the new chief financial officer say, but they are the ones who have the knowledge and skills to restore and improve the city's fiscal health. The city is accountable to the state for how money is spent and these two officials know what the state Local Finance Board expects from the municipality.
The discussion Monday veered off into personnel matters and other off-topic chatter at times, including remarks that reveal some council members don't read their packets and don't even know what they recently voted on. I found it discouraging and sad.
One way or another, the budget process will wrap up probably in May and those who haven't paid attention to the budget can then pay no attention to other things. I hope all who follow these meetings on PCTV think about who is properly representing the public and who thinks they are stars of their own political show.