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    Reversal of Fortune Prompted by Mayor's Veto Threat In Council Budget Showdown

  • Richardson-Batts Offers Modified Version of Baker-Lowenthal-Lerch Budget Proposal, Passes 5-4.
  • Mayor Invokes Threat To Veto Budget, Would Require 6 Council Votes To Override.
  • Kell Acts As Swing Vote, Gets Vote Reconsidered (on reversed 5-4 vote), Proposes Compromise 3.5% Cuts (not affecting sworn public safety personnel) With $1.3 Million for Public Corporation for the Arts (not restricted to grants), Passes On Reversed 5-4 Vote

    (September 24, 2002) -- In a special Monday night budget session lasting over six hours, LB City Councilmembers initially voted 5-4 to approve a modified version of the Baker-Lowenthal-Lerch budget proposal (motion by Richardson-Batts, details below) with 4% budget cuts partially offset by certain budget additions.

    Batts offered her motion as a substitute to Mayor Beverly O'Neill's proposed 3% cuts in city spending (excluding sworn public safety) with additional budget items referred to the Mayor's chosen Budget Advisory Committee. (Mayor's proposal offered on motion by Councilman Webb).

    Batts' substitute motion was to implement a 4% budget reduction citywide (3% for public safety but excluding sworn public safety personnel), immediate hiring freeze except essential personnel (and except City Atty, City Prosecutor and City Auditor), reduce Public Corp. for the Arts to $1.2 million (but not restricted to grants)...and add MET Team, code enforcement, continuing city programs, park ranger expansion, pocket park expansion, youth commission, alley sweeping, homeless service assessment and facility center assessment, and add'l police officers on receipt of federal grant, plus monthly updates of fund balances, accounting reserve reports and possible future infrastructure bond.

    Vice Mayor Frank Colonna and Councilman Dennis Carroll both urged supporting the Mayor's budget proposal. Colonna made a plea for $1.4 million in Public Corporation for the Arts spending. (In August, the Mayor and City Manager had proposed $1.75 million for PCA with $350,000 for Muni Band becoming PCA responsibility).

    The Batts substitute motion passed 5-4 (Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Kell, Richardson-Batts, Lerch; No: Colonna, Carroll, Uranga, Webb). The Mayor immediately expressed her displeasure:

    ...I don't agree with this. I think that 4%, after we have already done 3% and people were depending on will make a difference in the personnel that we have in our city. The fact that we are taking 4% and then spending at least 2% [restoring spending on some items], is not my idea of closing the gap, and that's the thing I've tried to do all along is to close the gap rather than to have additional expenditures without finding additional funds by cutting the budget.

    And after an intervening agenda item, a stern faced Mayor O'Neill dropped a bombshell:

    Mayor veto threat Sep. 23/02
    Photo courtesy HTTV, Channel 21
    ...I think I'm going to probably throw a monkey-wrench into this. For eight years, I have been Mayor I have never used the veto. I feel strongly enough about 1% difference, I could go with 3.5 [%], I cannot go for 4%, in the budget because I did a great deal of study on this. I started with 5, I went to 4, then I went to 3...[A]t 4%, no matter what you think, people will lose their jobs. And I don't feel prepared to say that. I feel there has to be a process more than those of us in this room saying that.

    A Mayoral veto on the budget would require six Council votes to override...not the usual five.

    The Mayor's threatened veto caused 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell to act as a swing vote. She sought reconsideration of the Council's prior vote, which tipped the Council majority in the other direction on a reversed 5-4 vote (Yes: Colonna, Carroll, Kell, Uranga, Webb; No: Lowenthal, Baker, Richardson-Batts, Lerch).

    Councilwoman Kell then proposed 3.5% cuts (not including sworn personnel), immediate hiring freeze except essential personnel (and except City Atty, City Prosecutor and City Auditor) and $1.3 million for the Public Corporation for the Arts (not restricted to grants) Baker-Lowenthal-Lerch and Batts proposed $1.2 million; O'Neill proposed $1.4 million. Kell's motion sought no "add ons" at this point [the Baker-Lowenthal-Lerch and Batts supported proposal sought to provide certain additional items.] Under the Kell proposal, additional items would be sent to the Mayor's chosen Budget Advisory Committee for review.

    As Councilman Webb pointed out, this was basically the same as his original motion in support of the Mayor's proposal, except using 3.5% instead of 3%, and reducing PCA's funding to $1.3 million. Webb's original motion repeated the Mayor and Manager's proposed $1.4 million (apart from Muni Band funding) for PCA.

    Kell's motion passed on a reversed 5-4 vote (Yes: Colonna, Carroll, Kell, Uranga, Webb; No: Lowenthal, Baker, Richardson-Batts, Lerch).

    During the budget proceedings, City Manager Henry Taboada indicated the cost of accepting a recently awarded federal grant for 36 additional police officers could be absorbed within the FY 03 budget. Mr. Taboada noted the officers will not come on line until midway through the FY 03 budget year.

    Despite sharply split votes, the Sept. 23 special Council meeting was businesslike and substantive. Details to follow in subsequent postings.

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