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DeWayne's World - Will Ardis raise?

DeWayne Bartels

The effort by Mayor Jim Ardis and Peoria library board president Brian Ruddell to find cuts to the library budget is beginning to look like a high-stakes poker game. 

With Ardis and Ruddell both being highly civilized men, this game is being played with smiles and strategy.

The city council is looking at a projected $10 million deficit in 2010.

Since the city council controls the library’s purse strings, the library is going to share the pain of bringing the city budget back into the black.

The council, at its Aug. 11 meeting, proposed dropping 2 cents from the library levy, amounting to $400,000, and dropping that into the city’s general fund.

Ruddell and other members of the library board, at a special board meeting Aug. 20, decided to offer up $320,000 in cuts.

My attention gene perked up.

It sounded like a bluffing tactic on the part of the library.

Library director Ed Szynaka confirmed my suspicion, offering up some advice to the library board that sounded an awful lot like strategy in a poker game.

“We must be careful. Whatever we put on the table will be swept up,” Szynaka said. “We are talking about tactics.”

Ruddell smiled. 

I approached Ruddell after  the library board meeting. Ruddell said he was aware the city asked city department heads for a 5 percent cut in their budgets, and when the department heads delivered, the council asked them to look for even more cuts.

“If we can do better than ($320,000) we will,” Ruddell said.

“But, I don’t think we can go any further. We want to do our part.”

When I asked Ruddell if he thought the council would accept this ploy, he smiled.

Then he paused.

“I don’t want to talk about hypotheticals,” he said.

I smiled, too, as I walked away, anxious to see how the hand played out.

This kind of gamesmanship is exactly what makes politics so interesting.

It may or may not serve the wishes of the taxpayers for lower taxes, but it is always interesting. 

Following the Aug. 25 city council meeting in which Ruddell offered up $320,000 in budget cuts, Ardis was smiling as I followed him down the stairs.

He was probably smiling because the council meeting adjourned before 11 p.m.

But, I had to note the smile came despite the fact the library board offered cuts $79,547 short of the $400,000 in cuts the city council asked for from the library board.

That did not diminish the mayor’s smile.

“We did ask the library board for $400,000 in cuts. They came back with what they came back with,” Ardis said. “They did a good job. We appreciate that number.”

Ardis smiled.

“Nothing is final. If this number is not enough, we’ll go back to them. We all know how this game is played. They are not going to put all their cards on the table in the first round.”

It’s not likely this game is over. Ruddell might be able to bluff, but it’s Ardis and the council who control the pot.