Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Megan Barry's budget committee failed to vet Arriola's budget for the rest of the Council

I appreciate that you all do the marriage licenses.
-- At-Large CM and Budget Chair Megan Barry setting the tone
for last May's powder-puff budget hearing with John Arriola

NewsChannel5 investigative reporter Phil Williams has been effecitvely stalking and running down the continuing controversy of County Clerk John Arriola. His latest coverage is a tally of council members who are and are not willing to vote on a memorializing resolution (that is, a resolution that is a nonbinding expression of the council's wishes) requesting Arriola's resignation.

I have no objection to the idea of asking for Arriola's resignation, given the news that he was driving a $33,000 Chevy Tahoe on the taxpayer dime while laying off workers to meet Karl Dean's mandate and that he was making a killing off mandatory "gratuities" on marriages. But the more important question to ask here is how Arriola was allowed to breeze through both the Mayor's and the Council's budget hearings without having to defend his cash flow.

At-Large CM Charlie Tygard touched on the car issue, but only to raise a question about mileage and fuel money. That is still more than either Barry or Ronnie Steine asked.

The cost to keep the North Precinct office open for the benefit of those of us who live here is $61,000, but none of the budget committee bothered to ask whether Arriola could give up his gratis SUV to get the budget part of the way there or at least to rehire a lay-off. The budget committee, chaired by at-Large CM Megan Barry who is not known for asking difficult questions of the administration, jockeyed mainly over numbers at their respective county clerk offices rather than asking whether this is a socially responsible budget.

Of course, after this story broke, CM Barry sent out a press release calling for a review of all Metro vehicles with the caveat that Metro can save money reducing vehicles "not frequently driven". But Ms. Barry's initiative could have been just as easily launched at any point in the past year after she was appointed to chair Budget and Finance. And it doesn't even address Arriola's misuse of the Tahoe, which had 35,000 miles put on it in the past 3 years, according to the County Clerk. Megan Barry sounds like she is merely grandstanding on a lightning rod issue in an election cycle.

For their part, the media should have been asking harder questions last May of these council members about why they were letting the department heads like Arriola breeze through the budget process without challenges. That would get a lot more traction than whether or not they will vote for a resolution that has no enforcement power behind it. However, it is not too late to bring these questions to bear on CMs who did not rock the Metro boat when it could have made the most difference.

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