We should be having difficult financial discussions

A colleague and I wrote an opinion piece in June expressing our sentiment on the lack of fiscal responsibility within the city. I hoped that this piece made it clear about my intentions as your representative.

http://www.patriotledger.com/opinion/20180620/ian-cain-nina-liang-quincy-lets-finish-what-weve-started

In my three years on the City Council, I have been consistent in suggesting methods by which we can improve our city and its operations. Not all have been welcomed.

Here are a few examples.

http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20170413/quincy-councilors-ask-parks-or-roads

http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20170419/hotel-tax-changes-would-be-dead-on-arrival-to-mayors-desk

I made an overture suggesting that we could do better with managing money. In turn, I was ridiculed by the mayor’s office.

http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20180615/quincy-councilor-criticizes-capital-spending

The current mayor has been in office for ten years, since 2008. I’ve been here since 2016, but in that time, I have been shocked at the lack of organization and financial prioritization. Furthermore, since my time on the council, I can’t recall seeing one spending appropriation rejected. Not one!

On the City Council, we aren’t privy to the daily and various discussions, developments and impending needs within city departments along the way. Most often, a spending request comes through on a Friday afternoon, and we’re expected to make a decision by Monday. This is because, as I’m told, “that’s the way that things have always been done.”

Well, I did not run for this position to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done, and when City Council President Brad Croall appointed me to the position of Finance Committee Chair, I took that as a mandate to exert some control over the city’s haphazard financial process.

The City Council does not have the privilege to put its own financial requests forward. Those come through the mayor’s office. The mayor’s office seems to be of the impression that money is going out of style, so we better spend as much as possible today. Let’s not think about the pensions and the healthcare of the police, fire and teachers in the future. Let’s not have difficult conversations about spending because it’s not politically expedient. Let’s not do our jobs and scrutinize things.

No more. It’s time to have these difficult discussions.

In June, while I couldn’t be in attendance for a council meeting, and as a method to circumvent the traditional processes of the finance committee, my colleagues elected to move $40 million forward without the direction of the chair and on behalf of the mayor’s agenda.

This same move was also made on Monday night for another $5.4 million for Kincaide Park, a park that only one year ago had $1.3 million sent its way.

http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20181204/quincy-council-oks-63-million-kincaid-park-renovation

http://www.patriotledger.com/news/20170515/quincy-city-council-signs-off-on-mayors-27-million-parks-plan

This should make you think.

What purpose do committees serve if everything is going to get passed without scrutiny?

What is the point of the City Council if the body refuses to act independently of the executive, but instead act as complicit to move forward that office’s agenda?

I refuse to be put in a position so as to pass every spending measure that comes before the council, especially when there is no prioritization on spending. Therefore, as the Finance Committee Chair, I have decided to reduce the number of committee meetings held until we play catch up and can prove the city can handle the hundreds of millions of dollars in projects already committed. Otherwise, the spending might never stop, and I believe the taxpayers deserve a break.

 

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