Citizen financial examiner John Marshall Lee writes about City Council committee meetings being junked for a Washington DC junket. From Lee:
Today I am sitting by my computer and beginning to wonder why multiple City Council meetings are being canceled next week. One by one: Budget & Appropriations, 3-9 Monday, Contracts, 3-10 Tuesday, and then Education and Social Services, 3-11 Wednesday have been canceled without rescheduling. Big sickness on the CC? Trouble digging out CC cars from snow drifts? Conflicts causing quorum issues? Or is this Washington DC junket week for the National League of Cities?
Many Council members travel to, cover hotel and food expenses, and registration fees at Bridgeport taxpayer expense but rarely if ever do you hear a thank you or get a report on how the Council is functioning with new insight and state-of-the-art practices. Council members schedule time off, reservations and travel arrangements months in advance and sometimes have guests with them on site. Why are Committee Meetings canceled at the last minute without a reschedule? Is it because members don’t really care about their monthly meetings? Let them eat cake, instead?
It’s the 90th Anniversary of the NLC and President Obama will speak to the delegates, according to the web site. Want them to tell you what they did and how it will help our City get better every day? Bet you do. Ask them for accountability? Ask them to open up stipend records? And ask them to monitor reports with more care? (The January monthly financial report contained an extra 9 pages because the Revenues were reported twice. Who does the proofreading of Finance Department materials? Anyone? After finding almost 20 such mistakes and errors in the CAFR two weeks ago Anne Kelly-Lenz needs to provide more responsible supervision, I suggest. But she does not wish to answer my questions. Perhaps someone else will ask her.)
And Lennie, a reference to the City Charter yesterday reminded me of one gripe I mention frequently but somehow is lost to readers. It’s about the “Bridgeport City Charter, Chapter 9 – Budget and Fiscal Controls and specifically Sections 5 & 6.
Section 5. Budget: Mil Rate
(e) Prior to taking final action on the proposed budget and mil rate the city council shall hold at least one public hearing at which members of the public shall be allowed to comment thereon.
Section 6. Capital Budget
(c) The city council shall solicit suggestions, comments and recommendations from city officials and the members of the public regarding the proposed capital budget and shall conduct at least one public hearing.”
Two different budget processes, two different reviews by City Council, one budget appears on City website clearly at proposal and adoption occasions, the other does not show anywhere as a financial document for instant reflection or access during the year. Why is this? Just because it has always been that way? More convenient for City leaders not to address Capital budgets and bonding for these purchases?
As you read the Charter language, how many meetings are to be held?
It looks like differences call for two meetings in my opinion.
How many does the City hold? One operating budget session where the City Council makes no comments on the budgets they have covered already nor on the departments they yet will review. Is this the way Finance Boards act in other communities? Definitely not. Debate is in public.
Does the City promote any of these sessions? No, or at least with far less excitement and genuine notice to the public than they spend on Snow Emergencies.
Does it trouble you as a taxpayer to realize that the Council is not interested in hearing what you have to say in preparation for voting on over $500 Million of operating budget? And they really do not want to show that they comprehend less than they should? So they sit and look like they listen. But need play calling from player manager Tom McCarthy or the coaching staff that is the leadership of the Executive Branch. Is this the way you wish your Council representative to proceed? Time will tell.