by Pam Zubeck
UPDATE: Council President Keith King issued the following statement in response to Douglas Bruce's criticism of the proposed 2014 Council budget:
Today you received an email from Doug Bruce about the proposed city council budget for the fiscal year 2014. This information was sent to Councilmembers to begin a discussion—which we did yesterday. The budget is a proposal and there are many line item expenditures that Council has yet to analyze. Many of the assumptions of the email from Doug Bruce do not adequately explain all aspects of that line item. We have established a new Finance Committee for the City Council budget in order to have a complete and open budget process and to fully vet the budget. You can be assured that Council will be aggressive in being a strong steward of taxpayer dollars.
————————-ORIGINAL POST WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 4:09 PM———————————————-
Apparently fresh off the trail, Colorado Springs City Council sat down to some weighty issues yesterday — wearing funny hats.
They voted on forming a new taxing district and allotting tax money for the Balloon Classic. They also listened to a lineup of citizens who urged regulation of recreational marijuana, and gave tax foe Douglas Bruce his say over the 2014 Council budget.
And through it all they kept straight faces. More than you can say for some observers who probably wondered if they'd stumbled into the OK Corral by accident.
OK OK. We know councilors were probably trying to pay homage to the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, which staged a parade yesterday. But still.
How do you make an earnest appeal to someone in costume? Especially when you're wondering if they have a six shooter below the dais to go along with those Stetsons.
Oh, by the way, three councilors — Val Snider, Jan Martin and Joel Miller — chose not to make spectacles of themselves, thank you very much.
But if anyone can throw a damper on a light-hearted moment, though, it's Bruce, who proceeded to make some of the following points. Not all, because Cowboy Keith cut him off after the three-minute limit for public comment. Here is Bruce's complete list of points about the 2014 Council budget:
1. The 2013 salary portion is one-third above the 2012 budget. Disgorge that $96K increase in 2014.
2. A "budget" that conceals fringe benefits is mislabeled. Does you think you can evade charter section 13-20(b) by not listing your illegal benefits?
3. $7,600 is identified as frames and matting for "resultions" (sic). Not only a waste of public money, but of the public's time and yours at meetings. Ask the mayor to sign "thank you" letters and pay the 46 cents postage. If council stops all such resolutions, proclamations, celebrations, memorials, tributes, and other non-legislative acts, I will pay postage for up to 100 such mayoral letters per year.
4. $6,000 to Leadership Pike's Peak aids your political ambitions and is not a proper cost to taxpayers.
5. $5,000 to annual retreat facilitators to guide you for one weekend meeting? Skip the retreat. You have 24 informal meetings; that's enough practice in holding informal meetings.
6. $3,350 for a sign language interpreter? For how many hours at how many meetings?
7. $1,500 for mileage for two staffers. Is that for commuting to City Hall?
8. $338,000 for membership dues. Do you get more free meals from that? You should quit them all and save the money. As I recall, attending their conventions is an extra fee, plus hotel, travel, etc. The city is not a private business, so you are not eligible for Chamber of COMMERCE membership.
9. $4,500 for "snacks and beverages" in express violation of 13-20 (b).
10. $4,000 for two CML conferences at $500 for two staffers; that totals $2,000, not $4,000. Does your auditor have a problem with math? Don't pay $500 to attend a conference; read the minutes.
11. $250 for Gazette and $100 for CSBJ. Buy your own subscriptions. The last time I subscribed, the Gazette was $75 a year; you just have to ask. Why should I pay for your reading material? You can read it online for free. CSBJ has maybe 2,000 subscribers—hardly a molder of public opinion.
12. $76,000 for travel. Nester says "We are obliged to put in $8,000" per council member and $4,000 for staff. No, you are "obliged" to obey the charter. You don't get an expense account, and staff should not have one either. Slush funds for personal use are not part of proper compensation. Staff gets fat salaries, mileage, supplies, travel, etc. Even their $4,000 is too much.
13. $11,000 plus for city cell phones, equipment and supplies, long distance, air time, etc. I get 1,000 anytime minutes, local or long distance, with a free phone for $40 per month (plus tax which the city doesn't have to pay). Give each member that plan—9 X $40 X 12 months, or $4,320/year. If you yak more than that, discipline yourself, use your own phone, or pay the excess personally.
14. $3,400 "printer consolidation cost." That is absurd for "printing agendas to the public." I see maybe 250 sheets of paper per meeting on the sign-in table. That expense also does not include the next item, $2,630 for "stationary" (sic), business cards, and large print jobs, which is apart from "consummable" (sic) office supplies.
Stop wasting our money on your undisciplined appetites.