Our Opinion: Council must speak as one

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 19, 2005

Council’s argument that they did not get their say on City Manager Steve Herbert’s proposed budget reductions doesn’t seem to have much merit.

On the heels of mounting pressure to lower the real estate tax rate to give citizens badly needed relief, council members asked Herbert to go back to the drawing board and find ways to shave the budget. On Monday Herbert presented a list of recommendations.

Apparently some council members were asked for input on the proposed cuts and some were not.

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Councilwoman Linda T. Johnson said, &uot;I’m not happy with the process tonight. There are seven of us who vote equally…but seven people are not getting equal time and respect.&uot;

&uot;No one called me for my opinion…and others got to offer their opinions,&uot; said Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett. &uot;People were left out of the process.&uot;

If Herbert called some council members and not others to get their input, this was a bad choice. But council must allow the city manager to do his job, and the governing body must make decisions based on what’s good for the entire city. Herbert was asked to find cuts and he did. Of course, as Johnson pointed out Wednesday, there are numerous other areas of the budget that could use some chiseling.

But in a city developing as fast as Suffolk with myriad issues on the table, council must learn to blend their perspectives, reach compromises and speak as a unified voice, leaving no opening for one-on-one maneuvering with the city manager. This would eliminate the appearance of self-serving motives.

The budget cutting process should not be aimed at making sure no one’s wish list is hit too hard. This scenario heightens the likelihood that needed cuts may be overlooked as a result of which council member screams the loudest.

Both Johnson and Councilman Curtis R. Milteer Sr. strongly favor an across-the-board look at cutting the budget, scrutinizing every department. It doesn’t appear this is going to happen. As the council demonstrated in its continued dialogue on the budget Wednesday night, they have the final say on what stays in the budget and what goes.

Meanwhile, collectively working toward what’s fair for all of the citizens they represent should be of utmost concern for council.