The Wall Street Journal - April 09, 2011by Michael Howard Saul
The New York City Council officially responded Friday to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's preliminary budget proposal, telling the mayor it would be imprudent to slash critical city services or short-circuit the city's economic recovery.
"Laying off teachers, closing fire companies and shredding the social safety net are not actions worthy of the progress we have made, do not reflect the values of New Yorkers and do not lay a stable foundation for our future," the council wrote in its formal response to the mayor's budget blueprint.
"Rather, we must pare away unnecessary spending and use our limited resources to protect our capacity to deliver the critical services that constitute the building blocks of our future," the council wrote.
The council's submission of its 13-page response follows a series of oversight hearings on the mayor's preliminary budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The final hearing, examining the Education Department's budget, took place Friday and featured Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, the mayor's designee to replace Cathleen Black as schools chancellor.
In the document, the council highlights the mayoral proposals it plans to oppose, offering a preview of the major flashpoints in this year's budget battle. The mayor is slated to release an updated budget proposal in early May, laying the groundwork for budget negotiations that are expected to culminate in late June.
Some of the key areas of disagreement between the council and the mayor include:
* The mayor's proposal to shutter 20 fire companies has stiff opposition on the council. "The council will not and cannot agree to write the administration a 'blank check' to close 20 companies," the council's response says.
* The council is seeking "significant" restorations to the budgets of the district attorneys.
* A plan to eliminate 350 civilian positions in the NYPD is also causing concern among council members. The loss of these positions "will adversely impact the NYPD's success in combating crime," the council said.
In the document, the council said it believes alternative savings can be achieved through "a more careful review of certain areas of spending, including most notably the contract budget." The council said "thoughtful consideration" should be given to the "appropriate amount of reserve funds that could be drawn down to protect core city services."
Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for the mayor, said, "We've worked closely with this council to pass responsible budgets that have gotten the city through tough times. We expect to do the same again this year."
The mayor and his aides have repeatedly said they are doing their best to protect core services while balancing the budget in tough fiscal times.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the mayor decided to withdraw his controversial plan to charge motorists involved in accidents for FDNY emergency services. The mayor made the decision following strong objections from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a mayoral aide said.