Friday, April 20, 2007

Some Anxiety You Might Have Missed at the Last Tuesday Night Supper Club

What we're discussing tonight is on us. It's our responsibility. It's our discretionary funds.

- - Council Member Ludye Wallace to a other members who complained that they did not know that had to request their discretionary infrastructure funds in time for the recipients to spend them by June 30, 2007

During Tuesday night's Council Meeting, several members expressed surprise that they will likely lose the remainder of the $48,000 they were each allocated to spend on the infrastructure of their choosing. During the consideration of "emergency" requests for infrastructure spending, they realized that if members did not request the funds during this past meeting, it was highly unlikely that the funds could be requested to be spent by the June deadline.

Were they listening in class? It has been clear to little-layobserver-me that the deadline was the end of the fiscal year, although in fairness, I did not know that two months before the deadline was the latest members could get requests in. However, spending those discretionary funds are not my responsibility; sending in requests in a timely manner is part of what membership on the council requires.

Former educator Carolyn Baldwin Tucker seemed particularly miffed and questioned whether the funds should have been designated as "infrastructure," because she found it confusing to have "infrastructure" connected with the term "discretionary funds" and with the term "capital budget" (funds in capital budget carry over year-to-year). I myself wondered why these discretionary funds are called "infrastructure," but only because council members have spent them overwhelmingly on private non-profits rather than on public infrastructure.

The Council Advisor told Ms. Tucker that the next time discretionary requests could be considered would be the May 15 council meeting, which would not leave enough time for beneficiaries to receive and to spend Metro checks. If that is indeed the case, then we are near the end of these largely misguided earmarks to non-profits. And Ludye's response to Ms. Tucker et al. was spot on: there can be no sour grapes from members who should have known the details of spending funds at their own discretion.

But after reminding his fellows of their accountability, Ludye turned around and encouraged them to try and get as many earmarks as possible in by the next meeting to see if the checks could still get cut in time. Oy-vey. Rather than nearing a merciful end, the Council may have a log jam of "infrastructure" earmarks to consider in the May 1 council meeting.

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