Commentary on City Economy
As the council reluctantly agreed Tuesday to a pension deferral plan to offset a $3.2 million budget shortfall, resident Frank D'Aversa asked City Administrator Marc Dashield whether he had met with unions regarding givebacks. Dashield replied that he had held four meetings with union members so far and noted that almost all the city's union contracts would be up at the end of the year.
"It actually gives us a great opportunity to do a lot of things," he said.
Granted, it would be unpopular to mess with city employees before a mayoral election, but are there no measures that can be taken now? Visitors to City Hall still see greeters who sign in and out at the mayor's office. Taxpayers, some of whom may remember the days when one assistant served both the mayor and city administrator, are questioning the size of the mayor's staff. A reorganization of the Police Division expanded the number of captains from five to seven. The police chief's title was abolished and some are questioning why no consideration has been given to restructuring the Fire Division.
The city is now in the fourth quarter of the year without budget passage. Is it possible that this fiscal year will just be a bad dream from which taxpayers will not awake until after the primary election? Where to get answers? The City Council is launching its once-a-month meeting schedule Monday and the administration is hard to reach.
Monday is also the day when all hopefuls for mayor and Fourth Ward must declare themselves. The incumbent has the advantage of holding the public eye, but the disadvantage of a public record of decisions that can be scrutinized for efficacy. Contenders must make themselves known and also must offer compelling reasons why they think they can do better. The times call for a disciplined leader who will not let this little ship of state founder. If it can't be done now, tightening up the cost of government must be the number one goal for FY 2010 and onward.