Left In Lowell

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June 15, 2012

Kabuki Budget II - The Chamber of Tries

by at 7:56 am.

Update: City Council / Budget Hearing 3

Please start of by reading Gerry Nutter’s diary about last night. I don’t agree with his summation of the evening, but he does well laying out the nuts and bolts of the transactions.

Generally, I think the City Manager put forward a good budget. If my taxes go up 2-3 bucks a month, so be it. I’ll give the money, but my expectation is for greater value. If we are funding more summer recreational programs, make the most of it. If we are investing in capital improvement, don’t buy bandaids for buildings. Fix them, properly, so we don’t make the same repairs again in 3-5 years. Ensure the Lowell Stat program impresses it’s critics.

So, it makes sense to me if a majority cohort of Councilors; Broderick, Lorrey, Martin, Murphy & Nuon, effectively support the CM’s budget. They are seeing a “bang for the buck.”

With the CM’s budget buffered by the majority, four Councilors were presented a golden opportunity to “get caught trying.” Meaning, they were appealing to a specific voting block that wanted to see a 0% tax increase. To be fair, the majority of the Council was, imo, also playing politics. The votes to protect overtime and raises is done with election day votes in mind. YES! The city workers are due raises and just about any cop would rather have more OT, than a couple new cops on the force. That is obvious, in my eyes. It is also a smart political play to affirm that in the budget.

Let me hit a few points:

- Sup’t Lavallee made a great point. When cops are called in to work, they are due a 4 hour minimum. If they are on duty and their shift is extended, then it is done on an hourly basis. The Sup’t stated that it is more efficient to use OT around shift changes. This comes into play in the downtown when the bars close, for example.

- C.Elliott deserves some props. In the past, he attempted across the board cuts. In doing so, he was criticized for not seeking specific cuts. This budget cycle, he has been very specific. Not sure why he is honing in on what he has, like cost of living adjustments for workers, but he has responded to his critics in a thoughtful way. There is political gain in his tact. There is also, peril. He played his cards by his own rules. I don’t agree with his positions, but he has stuck his neck out.

- C.Mendonca stated early on, that he would seek to trim the budget. To know Joe is to understand his votes, last night. He is fiscally conservative. He is not a poser. That was clear when, having proposed and supported cuts throughout the night, he did not support the whack at the snow and ice budget. He knew it was merely kicking the can down the road. That is not a sound fiscal practice.

- Props to C.Broderick for walking back the talking points spouted by C.Elliott & C.Kennedy. You’d think the economy was on the verge of collapse or that City Hall was operated by nitwits, if you sucked up the rhetoric of Elliott and Kennedy. Broderick calmly explained the logic or legal footing for the proposal at hand. He did not gloss over or cheerlead the manager’s budget. He just presented a cool, matter of fact validation. C.Martin gets honorable mention here. Martin didn’t step in often, but when he did …. . Or, as one observer put it, “Billy brought his club.”

All in all, we are seeing how they make the sausage. For the mouth breathers that want to shrink government, so they can drown it in a bathtub, details are unrewarding. For those of us that feel government is our imperfect approach to propelling all of us forward, together; seeing the beatiful imperfections is compelling.

Or, as Cliff Krieger says, “There is no free lunch.”

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