Budget Dance

In her speech today, Speaker Quinn called for a very specific government reform that would cause most New Yorker’s eyes to glaze over. She called attention to agency budgets, which she said “are overly broad and don’t detail individual programs.”

But the proposal is actually pretty interesting. The argument goes that the lack of transparancy in city agencies, and specifically their budgets, stems from appropriating large chunks of money without giving specific detail as to what it will be used for. Inevitably, says the proposal, the legislature doesn’t know what real impact a budget cut or increase will have on any specific agency. From the proposal:

In 1999, for example, a $15 million Office of Emergency Management project resulting in a 46,000 square foot “bunker” went forward even though it did not appear in the capital budget. Without relevant information regarding capital funding of the project, there was no discussion concerning the appropriateness of constructing this “bunker” on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center.

This, the Speaker believes, is not in line with the reforms that the 1989 Charter Revision Commission envisioned for the city, which calls for a long-term planning process. This will require the Mayor’s administration to provide transparency in areas where they currently do not.

—Nicole Brydson