LB fiscal reformer Norm Ryan said he was in the audience near the back of the room, having waited several hours to testify on the item. "I hadn't even made it to the aisle [to get the speaker's podium] by the time the Council had already voted, Mr. Ryan told LBReport.com afterward.
The announcement by O'Neill, declaring the Council would not discuss the agendized city management report, stunned observers because the public had every reason to assume the usual Council procedure on agendized items would be followed: staff would present its report, followed by Council and public comment.
Instead, the time elapsed for Mayor O'Neill's surprise announcement was 13 seconds, followed by the Webb-Lowenthal motion to "receive and file" the report within one second, after which the Mayor restated the receive and file motion and asked if there were comment on it, consuming just 6 more seconds, totaling 20 seconds.
"I guess the input of working taxpayers isn't wanted by this Mayor or Council," Mr. Ryan told us afterward.
During the afternoon budget workshop, 9th district Councilman Jerry Shultz asked City Finance Dir. Bob Torrez about the Nov. 2000
"If the utility users tax had not been reduced at all, how different would your report be today?" Councilman Shultz asked.
Mr. Torrez responded, "Each one percentage point of the utility users tax generates about $6 million, so with a 7% [utility users tax] rate facing us on October 1, that's basically $18 million less revenue. So I would have $18 million to present to you today had it not been for the UUT tax reduction."
Shultz noted that he had suggested last year that the utility tax be attached to a "trigger" mechanism so that "in good times we give it back, [but] in bad times it's there to use...and now we don't have that."
Commenting after the evening's non-discussion of budget issues, Mr. Ryan said, "It would be absurd if they [the Council] try to blame [City Hall's budget shortfall] on Prop J -- remember, they increased their spending as Prop J was being implemented." He added, "If there's a shortfall, it's that they spent too much money, not that there was too little money coming in."
Mr. Ryan also noted that the bulk of the budget shortfall came from natural gas, "so while they were telling us they were trying to get the prices down, they were banking on it staying high...and now they're disappointed in having a shortfall."
As for Shultz's comments about the utility tax cut, Mr. Ryan said, "Councilman Shultz needs to give it up. It was enacted by nearly 70% of voters not because I was so masterful a campaigner. They voted for it because the Council lacks credibility on the other side of the issue from me." He added, "The fact Councilman Shultz would even bring this up validates my point: even after it's passed, they still don't get it."
Like Mayor O'Neill, Mr. Ryan is running a write-in campaign for Mayor. Ryan finished third in the April 9 election to first place finisher O'Neill and second place finisher Vice Mayor Dan Baker.
During the afternoon budget workshop, 8th district Councilman Rob Webb said he was glad city management has scheduled a May 14 budget workshop to discuss public safety and police staffing issues, Councilman Webb said:
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity on May 14 to hear issues on police staffing, which has been one of those issues that I have at least said publicly and intend to say [are] my budget priorities so to speak in a public fashion, and would encourage that discussion amongst all my colleagues here in the public, because it's the public that we're spending this money for and they should get to know what our priorities are."
Since Sept. 11, the Council has continued spending under
Details of city management's mid year budget performance memo are separately reported on LBReport.com at: City Management Discloses Bleak City Revenues, Warns LB Is Now In Situation Similar In Some Ways To Recession of Mid-90's.