Councilor’s calls for fiscal amendments, restraint on line items met with silence
By JOSH RESNEK
The expression “like lemmings to the sea” originated in the 1950s and remained popular for decades afterward.
The phrase was used as a way of symbolizing people who unthinkingly follow what the crowd is doing, often with dangerous, if not downright fatal, consequences.
Last week, during the city council’s budget overview discussion, only Councilor Fred Capone refused to be a lemming among his council colleagues.
Despite showing common sense about paring down the budget during a time of fiscal need, Capone seemed to be talking to the wind.
For some inexplicable reason, technical difficulties prevented the budget hearing being broadcast so the people of Everett could see and listen to their elected leaders at work in real time.
Regrettably, the hearing took on the look and feel of a closed door executive session – a moment when many councilors appeared to act like lemmings to the sea.
Councilor Capone was the only meaningful voice questioning the budget, as near as we can tell.
Capone questioned some items that he thinks are just crazy and made a proposal to change something in the budget – usually to reduce spending to what might be loosely called a “reasonable amount.”
But other members of the Council, the foot soldiers in the DeMaria Crime Family (DCF) would not second Capone’s proposals, let alone vote in favor of them.
One cut that Councilor Capone attempted to make failed miserably, and it stands out – a line item for landscaping to purchase seasonal flowers and baskets for traffic islands and city buildings for almost $500,000, twice what it was this year.
The item was funded in FY2020 last at $280,000.
This year the amount was increased to $495,000.
The case can be reasonably made that flowers are important but that the needs of the people might take precedence over an abundance of flowers.
When Capone asked what was actually spent during FY2020, he was told $177,000, but only because of the Covid crisis or it would have been more.
Capone then introduced a motion to reduce the number by $215,000 and level fund it at the same amount as in FY2020.
To our amazement, not one councilor seconded this motion. During this terrible pandemic, where people can’t pay their rent and real estate taxes, and struggle to obtain food – and in many cases are forced to seek assistance from food pantries – the city has doubled its flower budget.
Flowers beautifying the city can reasonably be compared to free food.
The only problem with them is that they can’t be eaten.
A lot of free food could be given away to the needy for the price of half the flowers, ergo, Capone’s common sense in asking for a reduction of the amount of money paying for flowers.
In the past, when asked, Capone stated that he is elected by the residents of Everett to watch out for their best interests and to ensure that city government spends taxpayer money wisely and responsibly.
Although several colleagues supported some of Capone’s proposals, the majority of the council voted against any cuts whatsoever.
In fact, despite Capone’s valiant and sensible attempts, some proposals did not receive a second and therefore never made it to a vote at all.
During this moment of financial question, when the city is unsure of its economic future even with Encore operating, the city should be somewhat more conservative with its swashbuckling spending habits.
Almost all of the members of the City Council, except for Capone, were lemmings following the mayor in his rush to the cliffs last week.