Urban Politics #383 Explaining the Mystery of the City Budget
This may sound like a boring topic with a title that is trying hard to make it exciting. However, if I were to title it “How to spend a million dollars,” you might read it. And, hopefully you are right now. So here it is in a nutshell.
The City’s 2016 Budget determines how your public dollars are spent next year. The average citizen doesn’t know the details of how the council comes up with the budget. It is critical to know because in this case, knowledge is power.
Remember, “process” rules content. I know that may sound bizarre. But it is true. Because no matter how good your idea is, how rational an argument you can present, how passionate your campaign, the truth is that unless something is in writing and has at least 3 councilmembers supporting it by a certain date, it most likely will have a short life. That’s because it will then take a majority to get it even considered by the council.
Let me break this down for you.
Mayor Murray sent his proposed budget to the Council on September 28th. To make changes, the public has until October 28th at 10 a.m. to get 3 councilmembers to propose a specific budget change for discussion during budget meetings. If something is submitted after that date, then 5 councilmembers are needed to get it on the agenda for a vote. It would take another vote with at least 5 councilmembers voting for it to be included in the budget.
So the key date to remember is OCTOBER 28th. In other words: get to Councilmembers now to add or remove items from the budget. The Councilmember you meet with needs to be one of 3 “sponsors” for a request, referred within council jargon as a “green sheet.” If you want to impress a Councilmember and give him or her the impression you understand their inside game, then ask them to sponsor or sign a green sheet to do what you want. It’s best to go with something written to make it easier for the councilmember to go forward with this task. This makes things easier for councilmembers or their staff, and increases the chances that they will not let it drop through the cracks.
So, get organized NOW, not later. Keep in mind that there’s a deadline of 10/28.