Mayor Doug Franklin is asking City Council to take action to allow an initiative to be placed on the November 16, 2016 general election ballot, to increase the Warren city income tax by 1/2%. For this to happen, Council must pass two ordinances and get them to the Board of Elections no later than August 9th, according to SSD Enzo Cantamalesa.
Normally, an ordinance must go through three readings before passage, which would take six weeks, since Council meets every other week. However, Council does not meet in August at all, so these bills will either have to be passed as “emergencies” at the next Council meeting in less than 48 hours, or Council will have add two “special sessions” before August 9th to pass them in time. It was not clear at the end of today’s Finance Committee meeting which of these options is going to be operative. Council will meet in its regular session this Wednesday evening.
I sometimes try to keep a neutral tone here to avoid being the constant “scold,” but the idiocy of this evening was just too much to bear. Everyone on Council and in city government has known this day was coming for months, but Doug and Enzo waited until two weeks before the filing deadline to bring it to Council. Either this was incredibly poor planning, or a purposeful strong-arm tactic to put the pressure on Council.
And when they make their ask they are unable to answer the most basic questions about the tax. For example, Councilman Eugene Mach (D-7) asked, “How much will this increase raise?” The reply came for our new Auditor Vince Flask: “I don’t know. We’ll have to get back to you on that.” Doug and Enzo did not chime in. Clearly, they have no idea.
Doug’s opening statement for why this increase is necessary was a long, rambling discourse on how he’s “done everything possible to save money” and “has considered every possible alternative” before asking for a tax increase. And yet he doesn’t know how much the tax will raise, nor did he have a list of how the funds will be spent. This is planning Doug & Enzo Style.
Dan Sferra (D-at-large) stated that it would not be possible to even consider voting on this until they were given basic information like “how much will this raise and for what will you use it?” Doug and Enzo did not respond.
John Brown (D-3) spoke at length to challenge Doug’s assertion that he’s “tried everything.” Brown asked why this was so last minute and “How can you say you tried everything when we haven’t had a single meeting all year to discuss what options we might consider. Why aren’t we selling the vacant house we own on Mahoning, or the South Main Building. Maybe we should reconsider selling the golf course since the new renters aren’t paying the rent anyway.”
Brown cited the consolidation of Warren’s emergency call center with Trumbull County as an example of other tactics we should consider for city departments as well — starting with the dog catcher.
Doug assured Brown he was wrong on all counts and Enzo chimed in that the Council members and the Neighborhood Associations should be putting spending/cutting lists together and submitting them to him. I assume that would be easier than doing the tough work of budget consolidation that is his job.
So we have a budget crisis, an Auditor with no financial experience, a Safety Service Director who wants Council and the Neighborhood Associations to do his job and a Mayor who proclaimed during the debates last fall that the only problem with the budget was that “my opponent” didn’t understand it. “Everything is fine,” Doug told us.
Well, everything will always be fine as long as he can stick you with the bill.
I’ll try to write more, and more dispassionately, about this tomorrow. Right now I’m just too mad to say more.
[Addendum 9:09 pm: The correct date of the election is November 8 and the correct date of the B of E deadline is August 10. Enzo was quoted correctly. He had the dates wrong.]
Comments Off on Doug asks for a tax hike