The Latest from the Mayor
Let me begin by expressing my thanks to those of you who sent your condolences after the passing of my father, George Sullivan. He was a great man who shaped the future of the city, and he will be missed. Thank you for all your support.
This past Friday night was the Unity Dinner. We were fortunate to welcome Lynn Swann, NFL Hall of Famer and national spokesman for Big Brothers Big Sisters, as our keynote speaker. Mr. Swann was nice enough to waive his speaking fee for the event, so attendees were able to hear a world-class speaker without costing the city a dime. What a great guy. It was nice to come together after a month of celebrating our respective differences and recognize those values that bring us together: love of family, quality education for our children, safe and vibrant neighborhoods. Surely we can all unify around those themes.
The hot topic recently has been municipal money and how it’s been spent (or misspent, as the case may be) over the years. Our phones have rung off the hook with people asking about the overpayment of overtime to city employees. Let me assure the public: the error involving overpayment of OT has been fixed. In the future, this correction will save the city $250,000 per year. While we intend to find out how this was allowed to happen over the years so that it does not happen again, we don’t plan to pursue repayment from employees. Simply put, the amount of funds and resources that inevitably would be spent collecting money from people who have either retired, found a new job or otherwise left civil service would far exceed any money owed the city. On principle, I agree that the money should be paid back. From a practical standpoint, however, we don’t have the budget to pursue such an effort.
I’m pleased to say that our 2009 budget gap is now officially closed. Through reasonable spending restraints, some personnel reductions, and a slight improvement in the city’s investments, we were able to close the initial $9 million revenue shortfall. It was a tough task, but needed to be done quickly in light of the time of year. I want to thank all the departments for their insights and expertise into how best to balance the budget.
Lastly, I want to express my sympathies to the family of Jacob Otten, the man who died over the weekend in what looks like another death related to a hard life on the streets. These deaths are very concerning, which is why I have made it a top priority to address the issue of chronic homeless inebriates. Darrel Hess was recently named as the city’s homeless coordinator. His hard work, and the leadership being provided by Diane Ingle at the Dept. of Health and Human Services, should help our community better address the needs of this vulnerable community. This city is full of people who want to help, and Darrel and Diane are the right people to bring everyone together and cause real positive change. I’ve also been thinking about the man who was seriously injured a couple of weeks ago after being hit by a car while panhandling in the right-of-way on Benson Blvd. Hopefully the victim will recover and the police will find the hit-and-run driver who fled the scene. It’s a reminder of why we maintain that entering the street right-of-way is not to be taken lightly; it is illegal, and well-meaning citizens would be wise to remember that aiding these panhandlers also is against the law. Please, give your money to one of our city’s many worthwhile social service agencies; your donation will go to legitimate resources like food and shelter for these folks.
Stay tuned. Like I said earlier, it’s going to be a busy couple of weeks here on the eighth floor of City Hall. As always, please send feedback via this site or by dropping an email to email@example.com.