Thursday, September 3, 2015

Mayor delays release of budget; opponent says it's politically motivated

Posted By on Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 5:20 PM

Mayor David Condon won’t release a more complete version of his proposed budget until a day before he faces reelection. His opponent says the move is politically motivated, but the city administration insists it’s intended to allow for more time for community feedback.

Earlier this week, Condon released his program budget, a document that provides the broad contours of the mayor’s spending priorities. It's followed up with a line-item budget, a more detailed document that includes salaries of city employees and items that City Council wants funded. In previous years, the line-item budget –– a hefty, numbers-dense document –– has been released in October and sent to City Council for modification and final approval. 

Last year, City Council and the mayor clashed over the budget, with the council taking issue with raises for the mayor and his cabinet while disregarding some of their funding requests. This year, the line-item budget won’t come out until November 2, a day before ballots are due. 

Shar Lichty, an organizer with the Peace and Justice Action League who is challenging Condon, finds the timing suspicious. She says that the mayor is trying to avoid a similar dust-up as last year as he seeks to become the first candidate to be reelected to the position since 1973.

“It’s on the same time frame every year and this is the only year it’s different,” says Lichty of the budget. “I think it is politically motivated.”

Brian Coddington, city spokesperson, says that the mayor is delaying release of the line-item budget in order to get more feedback from the public. He says that people’s minds aren’t on the budget as they try to squeeze in a few last activities before the summer ends or prepare for the school year.

“It’s challenging for people to engage in any other activities and take that time time to digest the budget,” he says.

Coddington says that city staff will actively be seeking feedback on the budget from the community and have given presentations to the board of the University District and the Mayor's Advisory Council on Multicultural Affairs. In coming months, says Coddington, the city will be reaching out to neighborhood councils and any other groups that want presentations on the budget. The city will also be collecting feedback online.

“It’s important to get a broad cross section of the community,” he says.

Council President Ben Stuckart wouldn’t comment on whether the timing of the release of the line-item budget was political and says he was not given a reason from the mayor of why its release was delayed this year. He says that typically the program budget is released at the beginning of August but was pushed back by a month this year.

“I don’t know if we are going to get real feedback until the line-item is released because that’s when everyone finds out about salaries and if the council’s priorities get funded,” he says. 
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