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So Jack put forth the notion that elements of the City Council could act like a strong mayor, and they could eyeball the provision that allows the mayor, and if not the mayor, the city council, to submit a budget to the state if the city manager cannot or will not. (Given that hiring a city manager is the damn job of the City Council in the first place, if they use this provision they should take 100% blame for getting into that situation.)
Reportedly, Warren Shaw took up the notion on his radio show today, stating that the council could do this budget because they have people like Rodney Elliot there, or something to that effect.
Let’s examine the clusterf**k that would be, shall we?
First, I’d love to hear from Groton on Elliott’s tenure there. I hear it was short. A couple of years is the timeframe I’ve heard. The job is in his official bio:
Prior to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he served as the Administrative Assistant for the Town of Groton, Massachusetts, serving a three-member Board of Selectman. He was responsible for the operation and management of the Town’s $12 million budget.
Wonder if Elliott would be all right with us going to the folks in Groton and finding out just how he did there? The lowdown I hear generally is, not great. But, notwithstanding the somewhat speculative view on Groton, we have some track record here in Lowell to examine. Does anyone remember “across the board” Rodney? (Bold is mine.)
“If you voted for the budget, then you are responsible for the tax increase,” Elliott said, adding that he thinks further budget cuts should have been made.
He said, however, he did not have any suggestions for cuts.
Councilor Kevin Broderick said that simply saying that you didn’t vote for the budget and are therefore “off the hook,” is “not an option.”
During budget deliberations, Elliott suggested an across-the-board cut of 2.5 percent to every line item, which Broderick said is not feasible.
“We cannot just not pay 2.5 percent of our utility bills,” he said. “It doesn’t work. What are we going to do, not plow the streets?”
I can’t stress how much it disturbs me to think someone who has such a lack of fundamental knowledge of budgeting might come within 5 miles of the process. Before you even get to whether or not to cut, let’s review how local muni budgets actually work: a large portion of a city budget’s line items are not within the control of the city. How much we spend on schools has a minimum, for instance. Or our debt service for capital investments. So once you leave out all the non-discretionary items in the budget, a 2.5 reduction in total city funding turns into a much larger percent of the parts of the budget you can legally cut. Maybe police? Or fire? Plowing? I don’t know, because Elliott had no suggestions on where to cut.
And remember…Elliott made a lot of political hay over public safety issue last campaign season. So, which officer slots would he cut, I wonder? Does he think that’ll help public safety?
I don’t think it takes a genius to see the disaster Elliott and his ilk would make of our city budget. Think of how few City Councilors this term actually have the ability needed to make those huge line-by-line budget decisions! Nor should they have to. Which is not only an argument against Warren’s Shaw’s ridiculous assertion today on the radio, but also, against a strong mayor/Plan A charter in general.
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