Council Cuts City Budget
As city firefighters and youth advocates watched, the City Council’s Committee of the Whole voted to slice more than $5 million from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s proposed 2013 budget this morning in a contentious hearing marked by numerous split votes and arguments over how many votes were needed to pass each budget amendment.
“This just shows that my colleagues are full of it,” said freshman Councilman Brandon Scott (2nd District) after the council voted 12-3 to reject a $500,000 cut to the States Attorney’s Office Scott proposed.
Scott said his cut was aimed at a plan to move the States Attorney out of the Mitchell Courthouse. The $500,000 would cover the first year’s rent elsewhere, he said.
The city council is only allowed to cut the budget, not add funds. And it is only allowed to cut from departments, not specify specific positions to be eliminated. So the council members suggest what other things might be restored by their proposed cuts. Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young proposed a list of 22 amendments with more than 40 specific line items to be cut, which he said would pay for the restoration of city recreation centers, the summer jobs program for youth, after school programming and fire station closures that the mayor has proposed.
Although just 11 of his 21 amendments passed, those cuts could net more than $4.5 million to apply toward other priorities–if the mayor decides to go along with the councils’ suggestions.
At the start of the meeting both Council Vice President Ed Reisinger (10th District) and William “Pete” Welch (9th District) were absent. Committee Chair Helen Holton (8th District) said that eight council votes were nonetheless needed to pass each amendment–an interpretation of the rules that was overturned by the council’s parliamentarian after a look at the council’s rules of order.
“So we go by Robert’s Rules of Order when its convenient and we go by our own rules when it’s convenient,” groused Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (5th District).
“No,” Holton yelled.
“Well that’s how it looks to me,” said Spector.
Councilmen Robert Curran (3rd District), Brandon Scott (2nd District), Spector, William Cole (11th District), Nick Mosby (7th District) and Sharon Green Middleton (6th District) voted against most of the spending cut amendments. [Correction: Mosby asks for a re-count and, according to the vote tally provided by Lester Davis, he voted for 19 of the cuts and against 14, while abstaining on one item. "I think I was one of the most independent members," he says. He was with the majority on 24 of the 34 recorded votes.]
Other council members–Mary Pat Clarke (14th), Bill Henry (4th), Carl Stokes (12) and Young voted for almost all of the cuts. The others were more unpredictable–some even changing their votes after the fact.
Both Welch and Reisinger arrived at the meeting late.
In the end, additional cuts proposed by Kraft were adopted, bringing the cuts above $5 million.
The council will formalize these cuts in a voting session to be announced this week.