Wednesday, March 26, 2008

We'll Do What It Takes to Make You Read About the City's Budget

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2008 at 4:37 PM

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Well, Mayor Karl Dean's first budget proposal will send about 200 Metro employees to the unemployment line, and that should have been in the headline in The Tennessean's print edition today, though they addressed the oversight in their online version. But given the city's tight fiscal situation—which wasn't helped by the spate of initiatives that former Mayor Bill Purcell pushed for during his final years in office—Dean's $1.576 billion spending blue print will likely glide through the council more or less untouched. The black members will likely push for more funding for Meharry, but to do that they'd have to take away money from popular and worthwhile initiatives, like a fully staffed police force. Now let's get jumpy.... Meanwhile, Dean has earned some political capital in the Metro Council, which is vital in a tight budget year. It's the council members who have to endure the brunt of criticism from a budget that cuts services and staff, but the Dean people have endeared themselves to the city's legislative branch by being as direct and accessible as possible. So you're not hearing a whole lot of grumbling from the council—even the old, cranky ones from the suburbs—right now since they seem to like Dean. That's because if a council member wants to meet with the mayor, well, they get to meet with the mayor. And better yet, once they're in his presence they don't have to worry about being tag-teamed by David Manning. Then again, Purcell and Manning had their way with the council too, so maybe the moral of the story is that the city's legislative body will lay down before the executive branch no matter who's running the show. In any case, one branch of government that should be absolutely thrilled at Dean's budget is the Metro school system. As Dean was cutting spending throughout the city, he gave the school system more than $6 million in local tax dollars even though the district's nine-member school board often appeared unprepared in their meetings with the man who controls their purse strings. But Dean's mayoral campaign, as unfocused as it often appeared, did make education the cornerstone of its platform, so to short-sheet the school system in his first year wouldn't have set the right tone.

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