To the editor:
In your May 23 editorial (“Budget flap exposes problems in City Hall”), you make the claim that I voted on the budget without knowing what was in it. I disagree with your assertion on the basis that the expected deletion of the set-aside designation, which I have an issue with, was not explicitly referred to in the budget documents nor was moving forward with that deletion referred to in the budget memos that were submitted by staff (which excludes the budget and fiscal affairs advisory committee report).
I have never claimed ignorance, as the Times suggested. That is just not true. In fact, reporter Melissa Quinn’s earlier story on this issue labels one of my colleagues as someone who voted on the elimination without knowing it, not me.
I further take issue with the Times’ assertion because it makes the assumption that because I am only in my sixth month on city council, I have very limited knowledge of our budget and budget process. This assertion seems to ignore or discredit the experience I gained serving on the school system’s budget advisory committee as well as the city’s budget and fiscal affairs advisory committee — both are resident-led committees that deal with budgets annually — prior to being elected.
When the motion was put on the floor that Monday night, even though council members were not privy to the deletion of the set-aside designation for the funds within the motion prior to the Monday meeting, every council member had to opportunity to vote yea or nay on the motion, as it was stated.
I voted yea for the motion with the full knowledge that our set-aside ordinances are subjected to a more drawn-out process, which includes a second vote to ratify the initial action, and I have the full right — as any city councilor would — to vote nay to the ratifying vote for the deletion of the designation for the open space and affordable set-aside funds.
In case you were wondering, the knowledge of the ordinance process is something that I learned as a member of the budget and fiscal affairs advisory committee, as the issue of set-asides has been debated for years. It was not something I had picked up in my city council briefings this year.
Even though I feel that your characterization of me is off base, I am relieved that you did understand the purpose of bringing attention to this issue after our initial vote. It is my feeling that this issue is one that is ripe for community dialogue, and I thank those residents that have reached out and let their opinions be known. I look forward to continuing this debate and keeping the dialogue going on between city council and residents.
- John Taylor Chapman