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Trick or treat at city hall

The lineup was long; 61 individuals &uot;stacked&uot; the hard benches in the Council Chambers waiting their turn at the podium with prepared and well-calculated speeches. All but a handful asked for funding, or thanked Council for what money and cooperation they had been getting and hoped would continue. As fast as one turned and returned to their bench, another would pop up and scurry forward.

It was almost a who’s who with a principal speaking for each category of &uot;service&uot; available in our city…available only if Council met their financial needs. Did someone carefully prepare a list, ask for their presence at that meeting, and tell them to plead for their &uot;treat.&uot; The trick could only be elimination of that particular service if the well dried up. Each was a quasi-legitimate service needed or desired by some in Suffolk.

A few were willing to face this onslaught, this wave of need, and ask for relief from the rising tsunami of property taxes…they spoke for those less affluent than those speakers who appeared not to fear giving a large percentage of their income to fund the spending. They had no axe to grind, as did many who wanted the city manager to remain steadfast with his seven-cent plan. Those who spoke for common sense and tax relief were not in some way employed by the city, or a city service, or the school system hoping to benefit by the wave of new assessment dollars.

When the supply of trick or treat speakers pooped out there was a hush as the few who remained waited to see how wilted the council members would be after such a pasting. There was not a clue that two of those up front were lame ducks, those seven were now to act…expected to accept the now famous seven-cent budget. It was Curtis Milteer who broke the spell…he, like most of us, had fully expected what had just taken place and was not deterred by it. There will be a cut well beyond seven-cents, less only over his dead body.

Linda Johnson agreed; the Vice Mayor nodded affirmative to cuts; Joe Barlow did not argue the fact that a bit more could be sliced off. This left the two lame ducks to caution everyone, and Mr. Brown agreeing that both caution and cuts must occur simultaneously. I think that’s what he said.

So now the real trouble starts… next week they will delve into the mysteries and intricacies of the budget. Of course this should have been accomplished months ago but Council actually expected the city manager to be more forthcoming with his hatchet, more in tune with 15 cents.

Insubordinate or not the manager stuck to his guns. I believe he could have saved the day, or months, with a dime budget. But no sir, round numbers like that would not appear to have been a serious attempt to live within the means. Seven is meant to appear that it is impossible to squeeze another penny. Hats off to him but he will pay…he will sit with Council, he and his financial manager, as they pore over the numbers with a red pen.

I’d start with a different &uot;seven…&uot; the seven percent teacher’s raise.

Next week will be interesting as nine &uot;experts&uot; sit around a table with a liposuction fat removal tool. Several council members insist there is plenty of it in the budget. So it will be a battle of wills…two against seven, maybe only four, maybe only three. Neither Council nor the manager is expected to back down and it is doubtful the manager will cease and desist dealing individually with the seven. There is no way the decisions can be left to the incoming Council but it would be even more interesting if it could. As I remember, both newcomers spoke of gigantic reductions…so at least let them sit in on the meetings. It will be up to them next time around.

Pocklington can be contacted at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com