Well, that's the Cliff's Notes of more than 24 hours of public meetings. I started this post 3 days ago, and the city IS NOW giving away free parking until Christmas. Please make sure you really take maximum advantage of the lost city services by parking in the circle while you buy your State Theatre tickets.
One of the most telling acts that preceded the budget was the release of the "draft" Early Intervention Program (EIP) report. The simple act of presenting the report THE DAY AFTER elections stunk of politics, And the stink stuck to both parties. The republican administration did not want to muddy any chances of getting a little party help by having angry voters. And the dems didn't want extra issues clouding their "friend of the people" rhetoric. So waiting to provide information served every one's interest EXCEPT the voters.
Even though the Administration clearly lost its bid for support; it succeeded in backing Council and taxpayers into a corner. They presented a hefty and controversial budget to Council and walked away. Council put on "The People's Song and Dance" as they returned the budget to the Mayor for adjustments (audio). Two weeks passed and the Administration tossed the same budget, but a little worse, on Council's desk. In the two weeks that passed we were kept busy-- and kept divided-- trying to save our own little special items. We fell for the same trick twice. Just a couple of months ago the EIP pirates created a panic, stole our money, and slipped out of town while we fussed over our interest. The Administration did the same thing; they spit out the most convenient budget possible, a tax increase with job and service cuts, and sat back as we scrambled and whined.
Twice during the budget proceedings I was disappointed by Ms Heffley. When she supported giving away parking revenue for the Christmas shopping days (audio), and when she protected Peace Candle money from being shared with the Heil Fieldhouse project (audio). Giving free parking (remember "every nickel and dime is gonna help?) while cutting jobs and services because of short funds is like giving away public money to the State Theatre. And sheltering a plywood facade from a children's cause is just plain special-interest selfish. Christmas will still come to Easton, no matter what we do to prepare or what we say to express it. Some ideas are better left as thoughts.
The double pay raise... Just plain sneaky (audio). That move in itself lends to character judgment. And in the same vein Miriam Huertas and Dave Hopkins deserve commendations for selflessly refusing pay increases. That also speaks a great deal to their character. Taking a double pay raise while cutting jobs and services because of short funds is like giving away $252,700.00 of public money to the State Theatre while giving us the impression it was about $150,000.00.
Another humorous moment was the Council Secretary's little exchange with the Chief of Staff over the Chief's covert line item granting him longevity of $1080.00 (audio). "You wanna start? We'll start!"
The only thing the Administration failed to do was fire a 73 year old employee. But they used the side show that he and his wild-eyed, hair-on-fire, lawyer daughter put on to obfuscate their 3 mil tax hike. The Mayor, Chief of Staff, and Business Administrator bit their collect lip and took what amounted to a verbal pimp-slapping (audio). But after all was said and done they pretty much said, "sticks and stones" and drove home to College Hill and the suburbs.
We would not be doing our jobs if we failed to expose what one resident eloquently dubbed "the Administration's greed and disdain for the workforce". The employee health care planning that the Administration is pushing is an ugly display of selfishness and for lack of another word DISDAIN. Instead of offering employees incentives for not carrying City insurance they would rather punish people out of he plan. The plan seems to be to make the cost of health care costs so high that people who have a choice will drop the City's plan. Hear it for yourself! My god, Mr Mayor, Mr Chief of Staff, and Mr Business Administrator how can you stand your selves. All three of you spent years enjoying better benefits than you offer.
Another slap in the face was the commissioner's pay and "No-additional-benefits" package. Just call us stupid, don't let our neighbors do it after they read in the paper that "the commissioner's annual salary [will be] $78,000 with $12,000 in deferred compensation...[and] the deferred compensation will be put into a pension fund for the commissioner...[and] the city will not provide any other benefits, perks or extras. [but] a vehicle is one of the issues the administration continues to negotiate with council... Other points include vacation time, sick time, insurance and attending law enforcement conferences." (Express-times 12/15/05) We were NOT aware that a $12,000.00 bonus, vacation time, and insurance were not "benefits, perks, or extras". And we all know what "negotiate" a vehicle could turn into. Only my friend, Mr Fleck, spoke to the record on what The Commish would and would not get (audio), and we all know where he'll be when the "would nots" become additional benefits. That's like telling us that an Amusement Tax will make larger venues pay a fair amount for city services, and then proposing limits that benefit the State Theatre, while giving the organization $252,700.00 in rebates.
Eastonians... Let them eat cake.