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Donelon Campaign Claim Questioned: "I Voted To Hire 150 Additional Police Officers Citywide."

(Feb. 20, 2002) -- has been unable to substantiate, and has questioned, a claim in a campaign flier circulated by The Committee to Elect Mike Donelon. The flier claims:

"I voted to hire 150 additional police officers citywide."

Here's our analysis: Councilman Donelon (who served on the Council from 1994-98) cast his first City Council budget vote in June, 1995 for the 95-96 budget year. This was the first budget forwarded to the Council from city management by Mayor Beverly O'Neill.

In the prior budget year (FY 94-95), the Council (under outgoing Mayor Ernie Kell and including outgoing 7th district Councilman Ray Grabinski) budgeted 839.4 sworn officers. Mr. Donelon's first budget vote came in June, 1995 and coincided with City Hall's shift from a July to an October fscal year, which produced a one time 15 month fiscal year.

In that budget, Councilman Donelon and his Council colleagues voted to freeze LB's budgeted number of sworn officers at the previous year's budgeted level (839.4) for 14 months, putting 888 officers on paper for the 15th month of the 15 month fiscal year.

When FY 96-97 approached, city management proposed, and Mayor O'Neill forwarded and the Council (including Councilman Donelon) voted to budget only 859.4 sworn officers. This was arguably the first of continuing annual Council budget votes ignoring the Police Dept. Strategic Plan's preliminary staffing strategy (by then) indicated 929 sworn officers for FY 96-97.

[A side note: Mayor O'Neill portrayed the 859.4 officer level as an "increase" before flying to Chicago as a delegate to the Democrat's convention which renominated Bill Clinton for president.]

A year later, Councilman Donelon (and the rest of the Council) continued the O'Neill administration's policy of freezing LB's police level. Councilman Donelon voted to budget only 859.9 officers in FY 97-98.

Councilman Donelon wasn't able to vote for the budget in FY 98-99 (Sept. 98) because his constituents ousted him a few months earlier and reinstalled former 7th district Councilman Ray Grabinski.

Thus, it appears to us that Councilman Donelon actually voted to budget 20.5 additional sworn police officers (859.9 - 839.4 = 20.5) above the level he inherited. Voting to add 20.5 officers seems to us a far cry from claiming to have voted to hire 150 additional officers as his campaign flier claims. telephoned Mr. Donelon this afternoon, who had a terrible (really bad sounding) case of the flu. We offered to defer our question until he felt better, but Mr. Donelon invited us to ask, and so we did. He said he'd check on the matter and get back to us, and we expect he will, and we'll be glad to post his response.

A postscript: In Sept. 1998, Councilman Donelon's successor, Councilman Ray Grabinski, continued the policy of ignoring the Police Dept. Strategic Plan's preliminary staffing strategy.

Grabinski and the rest of the Council voted in FY 98-99 for 860.9 budgeted sworn officers. By this time, the Strategic Plan's preliminary staffing strategy indicated 999 sworn officers.

The next year (FY 99-00), Grabinski and the rest of the Council voted to freeze the police level where it was in the previous year (860.9). Meanwhile, the Strategic Plan's preliminary staffing strategy indicated 1,023 sworn officers for FY 99-00.

In Sept. 2001 -- after Sept. 11 -- Councilman Grabinski and the rest of the Council voted to budget 913.5 officers -- the same level proposed by city management before Sept. 11.

This is roughly 110 officers fewer than the preliminary staffing strategy of the Police Strategic Plan...which was released while Councilman Grabinski was on the Council in February, 1994.

For the record, following release of the 1994 Police Strategic Plan, City Hall has tried to dismiss criticism of its failure to deliver officers in its Police Strategic Plan preliminary staffing strategy by claiming the Plan didn't include a genuine commitment on police staffing levels. We consider this argument beneath the level of a well run City Hall.

However one thing seems painfully clear: during the O'Neill administration, the Council's budget votes on police -- including those by Councilmembers Donelon, Grabinski and their fellow incumbents, show how easily the Council can ignore even the most highly touted, non-binding city management produced "plans."

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