Not sayin’ nothing to nobody

UPDATE: It’s come to my understanding that it’s customary for mayors to hold their comments until the big release date for their budget. While I understand the need for ceremony and tradition, I still believe it’s important to at least get some idea – even general comments – on what’s happening, reactions, impressions and such from the city’s top official as the most important document drafted on an annual basis is updated. That said, it’s not my job to force people to talk about anything, but rather give them the opportunity to do so. As for comments on the 2012-13 city budget, the mayor has said she won’t discuss it with us until she’s ready. And that’s her prerogative. – 3/29

Tough luck to those who want to hear an update on what Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero wants to do with all those tax dollars in the 2012-13 budget.

She’s not interested in speaking about who gets what, or her general impressions on the issue until she gives her proposed budget in late April.

That means that we don’t get to see or hear her thinking process behind why and what gets funding until it’s in the guts of a budget reccomendation or in a polished speech. So far we’ve heard about the possibility that the sustainability department could be eliminated, and that Rogero doesn’t expect new funding for projects.

But the city tree stock needs help, there’s a much-lauded effort to curb blight and there are popular public buildings that need some love – I’ll be writing about those issues in coming days, so look for that.

Previously I had talked to some communication types in the city about the way in which the announcement of Outdoor Knoxville was handled. They didn’t say nothin’ to nobody until the announcement. This is common in governments that like making big announcements. All anyone heard was that there is some kind of ourdoors announcement to come. And all that was there from KNS were me and my iphone.

Commenting on how you plan to orchestrate your budget, or give some kind of reactions to what you’ve been presented with in the process is different. Refusing to talk, even in general, adds a layer of opacity that essentially means the public doesn’t get to see what goes into creating the budget, just the results.

Talking through the process helps residents here to get a picture of what thinking and impressions go into making a city budget instead of seeing the final product – which is fundamental to open government.

Flotsam and jetsam:

  • Rogero seemed pretty warm to the idea of keeping the sustainability office going, and its director is a longtime city staffer who has worked on the South Knox plan, recycling and is turning attention to making city offices themselves more efficient. Her office also heads a green appliance program that recently needed some more oomph, among other things.
  • Nothing in this process is guaranteed following a hearing. But fighting blight was a key point of her campaign, and the city staff introduced some policies that need just one more vote to become official. These don’t have funding requirements:

An Ordinance to amend the Knoxville City Code, Chapter 2, Article VII, Division 2, Section 2-722, concerning the disposal of real property owned by the City of Knoxville. (Requested by Department of Finance and Accountability) b. An Ordinance amending Chapter 6 of the Knoxville City Code to add a new Article VIII establishing an Office of Administrative Hearing Officer to hear certain building and property maintenance code violations. (Requested by Department of Public Service) c. An Ordinance amending Chapter 6, Article VI, §§ 6-137, 6-144, 6-145, 6-147 and 6-148 of the Knoxville City Code relating to unfit building complaints; modifying the Better Building Board to become an appellate board; penalties and interest on codes enforcement liens; as well as clarifying the appellate process and issuance of emergency orders. (Requested by Department of Public Service) d. An Ordinance amending Chapter 13, Article IV, § 13-147 of the Knoxville City Code relating to penalties and interest on lot liens and removing the Better Building Board from the lot lien release process. (Requested by Department of Public Service)

… buuuuut their timing, here at the first of the year, during the early weeks of budget planning sure is a coincidence. If you’re interested in getting funding for a policy, then pass that policy right as the budget process is happening. The ordinances are fresh in everyone’s minds and were a part of a budget request.

In slightly related matters, I used to make sure that I did my chores when I was in high school before I asked for curfew extensions. 

About Gerald

A reporter in Knoxville, TN. Work (mostly) inside and play (mostly) outside. I'm a part of the X or the Y generation. None of us claim the other.
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