Saving LIttle Nell

They really should serve tea and biscuits for these annual chitchats. Every year the city’s department heads sit down one at a time with the council to review their budgets. Supposedly, this is the opportunity for the council to bring out the rubber hoses and the red pencils, challenge every expenditure, and cross out every other budget line.
But, it never happens like that. After all, the council are kindly folk who don’t don’t want to threaten people’ s jobs or take away city services.

They are also sympathetic to the city’s taxpayers, and they’d LIKE to make cuts, they really would, and they really try. The conversations usually go something like:
Councilmember X: So, uh this expense here, is there any way to, . . . you know, . . . . sort of, “reduce” it?

Department Head Y: No, not at all, that’s the cheapest cost possible and its a service citizens enjoy and expect. Of course, we COULD fire Little Nell, the one with rickets and the cute puppy . . .
Councilmember X: No, no, no, no! Thank you and your staff for the wonderful work you do.

Meanwhile, our eyes were rolling so much we got dizzy. As we’ve seen in two weeks of budget review, every department’s budget proposal is now written to the tune of the city’s Strategic Plan and Council Priorities. So, each introduction uses buzz words from the Plan Thus, we learn how the mission of each department, by golly, just happens to perfectly dovetail with the city’s goals of “sustainability, “livable community,” and “engaged, responsive, and service oriented government.” It’s . . . just . . . AMAZING how simpatico the department heads and the council turn out to be. OMG!

Shall we all roll our eyes together, Dear Readers? Don’t attempt it if you’ve been drinking. Oops. See what I mean?

Glub, Glub!
The pool is going under for the second time, and the council is reluctantly playing lifeguard. The county funding that got the Piney Branch pool operating and open to the public is ending in June and the county council, facing severe budget shortfalls, is not eager to spend any more money on it.

The council, thoroughly annoyed, voted April 20th to “find $10,000 in our budget that isn’t there,” as Mayor Bruce Williams put it, to keep the pool open. The county council had asked for such a gesture, but as councilmembers Terry Seamens and Josh Wright noted, the county does not ask other communities to pass the hat to keep their aquatic centers open.

– Gilbert.

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

2 Comments on "Saving LIttle Nell"

  1. Seth Grimes | April 26, 2009 at 7:46 am |

    The city could cut or consolidate positions, reassigning staff when feasible, as individual staff leave (a.k.a. “by attrition”). The city has not taken recent opportunities to do this.
    The city’s current budget and budgeting process and management appear not to be “sustainable,” to use a word the city has now embraced.

  2. Gilbert,
    Thank you for this very accurate description of the pattern of the budgetary discussions, pattern that is not new and has been going on for years.
    Many years ago, TP Council members have abdicated their role of being careful overseers of the use of city resources in budgetary matters and have reduced themselves to that of a rubber-stamping mechanism for staff suggestions.
    In the annual key decision that the Council has to make, their role is nothing more than that of a bunch of seat-warmers.
    Any possibility of change next November? One can only hope… and probably be disappointed!

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