Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hiring Freeze Essential for Accountability

We all remember last fall when Dan Coody failed to control spending as sales tax revenues were declining, leaving the city with a budget deficit of more than a million dollars. That might pale by comparison with his $63 million cost overrun, but it is still irresponsible. Instead of being accountable and managing the cost of government, the Mayor’s only suggestion was to raise our property taxes by $2.4 million.

The City Council rejected that idea until they could work to reduce the explosive growth in spending and administrative salaries since Coody became mayor in 2001. When it came time to review the budget, which was delivered late, Mayor Coody left the country and flew to Paris to hobnob with some Frenchman dressed up like Lafayette. The hard work was left to Vice Mayor Lioneld Jordan and six other Aldermen who worked through the holidays and made the hard decisions to keep the city afloat without a tax increase. They did it, and one of the management tools they chose to assure a balanced budget was a hiring freeze to make sure that every position filled was justified and necessary.

Now the Coody administration wants to repeal the hiring freeze and review process. Alderman Robert Rhodes, who like Coody skipped the budget session in December, is bringing a resolution to the City Council that will let Mayor Coody and 21 department heads hire whomever they want without getting Council approval. Alderman Adella Gray thinks it is a swell idea. They say the Mayor will keep the Aldermen informed by telling them after the fact -- when it is too late to do anything about it or hold down spending.

This resolution should be defeated. It is one of the few means by which the City Council can prevent this irresponsible spending spree and hold this administration accountable. If Coody is given a blanket exemption from the hiring freeze, why not just let him raise taxes, add positions, and hire more out-of-state consultants without prior approval? It would be much more convenient for Mayor Coody and his well-paid bureaucrats than having to make the case to our elected Aldermen.

Sustainability is a concept every bit as applicable to our city services and a balanced budget as it is to jetting off on a 7,500 mile round trip to Alaska for a conference on the subject of global warming.

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