Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Roanoke City council loses control of the budget process

Amelia Merchant, Director of Management and Budget

City council is becoming too chicken to question the city manager. The praise heaped on the city manager by city council and the public may just be sitting Roanoke City council on the sidelines of the decision making arena.

At Monday’s budget briefing to city council Amelia Merchant, director of management and budget barely got started before she hit a snag. City council was being hit with budget line items they had not heard about yet. For that matter neither has the public and perhaps they’d like to weigh in on how their tax dollars are being spent.

A small citizen panel was selected in some unexplained manner to represent all the citizens of the city. Not to fear any citizen will have one evening on April 26 to weigh in on the budget. Not much time until the May 14 adoption of the budget.

Roanoke city council is losing control of the city’s budget decisions – a good or bad thing – do they even care? A priority budget team is handling it so no need for council to worry their pretty little heads about it. Wait just a minute city manager Chris Morrill – the cart before the horse here.

At least one member of council should have asked for a briefing on the electronic chalking system that could result in citizens receiving unexpected parking tickets. The one percent for bike lanes seems to have come out of the blue too. Council should have told Morrill to pull these until they have been briefed on the new expense items. Especially when one directly effects the citizens. We elect city council not the city manager or teams selected by unknown criteria to make these decisions.

Council was right to bristle and question the electronic chalking system and the one percent for bike lanes. What is it and how exactly does it work asked councilman Sherman Lea. Morrill said, “I can assure you we’ll give you a lot of information on it.” Morrill appeased them saying it was not an effort to generate more money by way of parking tickets.

Vice Mayor Dave Trinkle also questioned the new system with an “I guess we’ll hear more about it later.” Great wishy-washy answer.

Mayor Bowers wondered how the public is going to learn about it. Especially those who “move their car up a little bit” to hide the chalk line and park longer. Councilman Ray Ferris wondered what would happen if someone left the space then returned to park in the same space if it was open. Is it accurate enough to identify one space from another?

City Manager Chris Morrill explained that it scans license plates using GPS to pinpoint the car’s position. Council loves you Mr. Morrill but again we didn’t elect you.

The one percent for bike lanes is derived from road construction and paving. Morrill equated it to the one percent for art. (explanation added).

Council will have to get use to someone else making the budget decisions for them. Heck we don’t need them at all then.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary, Finance, Politics, Roanoke City Politics

Tags: ,

Comments (3)

Jack Mcguire

March 6th, 2012 at 5:44 PM    

Arent they pathetc,.. great job Val and inside scoop. Rosen,Lea etc will be backing the new rep(ind) candidate..hoping to unseat Bowers.


March 6th, 2012 at 6:11 PM    

I had to say something after watching the budget briefing. To Lea’s kudos he was fairly forcefull when the chalking system item appeared on the budget.

Morrill acted like “you don’t need to know about it now. I’ll let you know when I think you should.”

They fear questioning Morrill now that they have praised him out the yin-yang.

Burcham would not have gotten away with it and I don’t think she would have tried.

Council was blindsided and looked foolish and uninformed. They should not be in that position of weakness. Morrill made them look foolish.

I hope they’ve thought about it and see how it looked. The delegation of the budget to the hands of a few doesn’t seem right to me.

Council needs to operate from a position of strength.


March 6th, 2012 at 8:47 PM    

I’m not on that special Citizen’s Panel!

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