Bring Back Budget Battles!

All is moonlight and magnolias these days at City Hall. Budget hearings are ever so polite now that the City Council and the mayor are as one, ideologically speaking.

Pardon us while we gag.

Budget hearings ought to be contentious. That’s why you have them. Council members are supposed to ask tough questions about the mayor’s budgetary priorities, and the mayor’s commissioners ought to feel just a little defensive as they try to explain why they’re spending this and why they’re cutting that.


If the mayor’s commissioners continue to be fawned over, 
the council’s long-sought 
wish to be taken seriously may 
be in vain.


These days, however, council budget hearings are likely to produce comments along the lines of: “Tell us again, commissioner, why you and the mayor are so great.” The commissioners appear to enjoy this, and why not?

Some years ago, Henry Stern, the longtime parks commissioner, said that the council could not be described as a rubber stamp because, after all, a rubber stamp leaves an impression.

Back then, the council was a collection of amiable glad-handers focused on obtaining grants for neighborhood sports teams. Today’s council is more professional, has first-rate staff and can claim to be the equal of the mayor without inspiring a collective roll of the eyes.

But if the mayor’s commissioners continue to be fawned over, the council’s long-sought wish to be taken seriously may be in vain.

The council needs to narrow its eyes and start asking questions with more of an edge.