City Councilman Tim Leigh, who missed an emotional public hearing on the proposed 2012 budget last week, said he had residents on his mind while he was in the Big Apple.
But, according to Leigh, the public hearing was essentially a waste of time.
“Frankly, by this time in the municipal budgeting process, any changes brought by special pleading by special interests are likely borne from emotion and not empiricism, and should be discounted on their face,” Leigh wrote in his weekly newsletter.
Leigh, who supports Mayor Steve Bach’s spending plan, traveled to New York City last week to the JP Morgan Utility Conference with officials from Colorado Springs Utilities.
Leigh “thought he could help save the city money in the long run by attending,” according to the Indy. He also told the weekly that citizen concerns wouldn’t factor into his decision-making on the mayor’s budget.
“It’s not like I would have come away and had any earth-shattering recommendation after watching it,” he said. “… My position’s pretty clear in how I feel about the budget.”
Councilman Merv Bennett also missed the town hall meeting. The Indy reported that Bennett missed the meeting because he had made a commitment to take care of a “loved one” after a surgery.
Dozens of people attended the public hearing.
About 40 people signed up to speak, including several people in wheelchairs.
Among them was Sharon King, a 64-year-old woman who has brain damage from multiple sclerosis.
“Right now, I’m not sure which direction to go to get home,” King said in an interview outside City Hall.
King asked a reporter to point her in the right direction.
In his newsletter, Leigh called the town hall meeting a “special contrivance.”
“I actually thought about placing a mannequin or an orange cone (with my face painted with a moustache on it) in my chair so folks would know how much I was thinking about them while I was traveling; and I was, and I do care,” Leigh wrote.
“I just think it’s horribly disingenuous and hypocritical to let the citizenry believe they can make last minute pitches and pleas and thereby modify a Quarter of Billion Dollar budget that took a team of professional accountants and budget planners nearly a year to create. And, while I appeared MIA, those who know me know I’m available and approachable for frank conversation anytime. I just believe that special meetings for special-interest groups, while politically correct and appealing, (and good for ratings), are mostly non-productive. Alternatively, my time and our trip to the Big Apple was very productive,” he wrote.
Here’s an excerpt from Leigh’s newsletter:
We could beat the proposed budget to death because we all have good ideas. But, at some point we have to let it go. But, so I may stay in touch with my politically correct old self, here’s my quick two cents:
POOLS: Instead of subsidizing swimming pools, we should close them and purchase everyone who uses a public pool a free YMCA membership. We’d eliminate operational and capital costs associated with owning a public pool system and save hundreds of thousands every year. As it is, our pools can’t carry their own water.
CONTRIBUTIONS: Let’s cut contribution to the Colorado Municipal League (and other such membership organizations) by half and eliminate the Intergovernmental Affairs Liaison position. Our combined savings would be around $100,000. If we simply direct those savings to Parks, we’d re-open the Prospect Lake Beach House and re-fill Prospect Lake every spring.
ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNMENT: Let’s move the Councilor’s offices to the City Administration Building producing operational efficiencies and financial savings while coincidentally solving personal safety concerns. Heck, if we played in the same sandbox, we might actually play together.
TOWN HALL MEETINGS: Citizens should talk to their elected officials more than once a year at a one-time, 2 hour meeting. To that end, we should hold regular monthly town hall meetings. These meetings could be very informal over coffee or wine and could provide a venue for citizens to showcase their programs and help drive public policy throughout the year – not just in a panic at budget time.
COUNCILOR’S SALARIES: For every dollar a councilor can find in savings to the budget by optimization he can keep ½. I’m sure I just found a couple of hundred thousand dollars with my ideas. . . .
I know my ideas will not be seriously considered, nor should they be. They are “off-the-cuff” as are many of the ideas brought forward in the town hall meeting where emotion and spur of the moment thinking reigns supreme. We need to discuss our “budget process” and the role of council in that process. We don’t need 9 city managers.