Council is, indeed, hefty
In early September an editorial appeared on this page titled “Hefty, hefty, hefty or wimpy, wimpy, wimpy?”
The editorial observed while Mayor Jim Ardis was off on the Memphis-to-Peoria St. Jude Run the city council did not exactly move forward boldly on plans to trim the budget, which was written in red ink.
The budget in September was $10 million in the hole, and would go as deep as $14.5 million.
Ardis had observed months earlier this council was hefty and would make the tough decisions to bring the budget back into the black.
Ardis said a “perfect storm” has formed to create the opportunity to trim city government. Ardis said with no spring elections looming, a bad economy and the city manager not being in a position to worry about losing his job if things get worse (the city manager then, Henry Holling, was an interim manager) would boldly move the effort forward.
“It’s hard to make changes. People want more and more services, and not pay anymore in taxes. It’s hard as an elected official to say, ‘no,’” Ardis said back in July.
But, “no” is exactly what Ardis said the council was going to say.
He said the council would swim against the tide of public opinion if need be.
At a few points along the way there were legitimate reasons to pause and wonder if Ardis read the council correctly.
The editorial board, at that time, commented, “Ardis had better be able to pull a Pied Piper routine and lead the council down the path he pictures.”
Ardis did exactly that.
The council on Dec. 8 passed a budget 10-1 that left the city more than $1.2 million in the black.
They trimmed 40 positions from the police, jettisoned the animal shelter, dumped people in the planning and growth management department, raised parking tickets $5 and raised $1.5 million in a 5 percent water utility tax that will hit even non-profits who normally avoid taxes.
One has to admit the hefty/wimpy question has been answered.
The council is hefty because a lot of the ways it found to trim the budget are not going to be popular with the public — especially cutting cops and turning the animal shelter over to the county.
Council members are surely betting on the public forgetting what they did this year to balance the budget by the time elections roll around.
Some people will.
Some will not.
What all should remember is that the council did what was needed to stop a hemorrhage of money.
Those who harbor resentment about how the council accomplished this should temper their anger with the knowledge that unless they came up with a better idea the council rejected, they were not part of the solution.