|Meeting regulars Glenn Hunsicker (left)|
Don Ringer (center) and Lou Hershman (right)
|Fed Ed's contentious style failed.|
They were there last night. Do-nothings like Ismael Arcelay and City Spokesperson Mike Moore, who lacks the personal honesty to use his own name. City Council was going to cut their usual raises to a scant 3%. They were there to see Fed Ed bully his way into getting what he wants, as he has done so many times.
Also present was Alan Jennings, one of the few people left who supports Pawlowski.
|Susan Wild, between a rock and a hard place|
They were on to Fed Ed long before City Council or federal investigators. Some have suffered for speaking out.
Shorty before the meeting started, Fed Ed quietly came into the room, carrying a gigantic canvas bag. I thought it might be his dirty underwear, but the feds have them. The bag contained several giant budget books containing a new spending plan that he had just presented that very day, at 4 pm.
A Brief History of the 2017 Budget
Fed Ed, his cronies and Jennings were there to stop Council from doing their job. One week earlier, Council adopted a series of amendments to Pawlowski's $104 million spending plan. They slashed payraises for Fed Ed's myrmidons. They rolled back overtime spending by ten percent, and cut payments for consultants and other professional services by ten percent. They reduced funding for the Managing Director, Director of Community and Economic Development and Operations Manager positions to $1. And they knocked ten percent off a proposed income tax hike.
Council had intended to adopt their amended budget on December 13, two days in advance of the December 15 deadline. Solicitor Susan Ellis Wild warned them they better do it now. She was concerned that Fed Ed would veto the budget on the 16th. Then he could claim that Council had failed to adopt their budget by the 15th, so his spending plan is adopted automatically. She wanted Council to be able to override a veto before the 15th.
|Candida Affa, Fed Ed's sole ally on Council|
Fed Ed countered that because funding for the Managing Director, Director of Community and Economic Development and Operations Manager positions was reduced to $1, this was an elimination of programs. He insisted that the city's legislators were required to start the process anew.
Despite red herrings that Fed Ed constantly threw up along the way, including a new budget proposal, Allentown City Council refused to be bullied and adopted their own budget for next year. It passed 6 to 1, with Candida Affa being the sole No vote.
It was a meeting that should have lasted 20 minutes, but stretched on for over two hours as Pawlowski constantly interjected himself and attempted to throw up roadblocks.
He started by insisting on reading an 8-page, single-spaced memo that claimed the sky would fall unless his, and only his, spending plan was adopted. He accused a Council that consists of a former police chief (Roger Maclean) and police captain (Daryl Hendricks) of setting up the police department for failure by reducing overtime by ten percent. He said the City's collective bargaining agreement with firefighters was being violated. Restrooms and parks would be dirtier. Snow would go unplowed. The City would have to let children cross some intersections without crossing guards. A "thoughtless leadership vacuum" was being created by a "shortsighted" and "ludicrous" legislature.
Complaining about the City's fleet of vehicles, he asked Council to explain "which vehicles I don't service?"
"Yours," shouted Kenneth Heffentrager.
The more that Fed Ed spoke, the louder Heffentrager began to jeer. And as usual, I got blamed. Candida Affa looked at me with daggers in her eyes.
Ray O'Connell Slams Fed Ed
|Ray O'Connell comes out on top in|
exchange with Fed Ed.
Fed Ed: "So am I to assume you're not going to consider the recently submitted budget?
O'Connell: "No comment."
Fed Ed: "What do you mean 'no comment'? [He should know. He's been saying that enough about the criminal investigation].
O'Connell: "Take it for what it means.I have no comment."
Fed Ed: "I don't think it's appropriate for you to make a statement with no explanation to the public. I think, quite honestly, it's bad government."
O'Connell: "You do not have to lecture me on bad government. ... Eventually, if we have to go further, and we know what that means, we shall do so."
Daryl Hendricks Slams Fed Ed
Alan Jennings asked Council to restore funding for the Managing Director, Director of Community and Economic Development and Operations Manager positions. While Pawlowski is under investigation, he claims he is innocent, Jennings observed.
"This isn't working," he told Council. He noted that the City is losing good people and that "morale in this building is a disaster." Paraphrasing Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jennings said, "There's a bad moon rising." He insisted that "we can't get anything done in this City without those positions funded."
O'Connell noted the positions are funded at $1, but if the Mayor produces a candidate who is actually qualified, "we will be more than willing to sit down and listen."
Hendricks was a bit more blunt.
"I think those comments should have been made to the person more responsible than anyone here, and that person is the Mayor of Allentown. That's the dark cloud hanging over our City. That's the problem we're facing. When you say about the innocence, when six other people have already pled guilty for actions they conducted with him, then I think the evidence is clearly overwhelming. At some point in time, we'll be more than happy to fill those positions, when we're part of the process, when we're allowed to make decisions along with the Mayor. That has not happened, and that is why there's a dark cloud hanging over us."
10% Reduction in consultants and professional services.
Fed Ed also argued that Council would be forcing him to break pre-existing contracts for school crossing guards. But City Controller Jeff Glazier had an answer. He noted that the amendment to make a 10% reduction "reduces the whole allocation by 10%, but it doesn't necessarily affect individual contracts within. It does force the administration to prioritize within those general accounts."
The tax rate
There was some confusion when it came to the tax rate because Council had been unable to set it, given the pressure to move ahead. Finance Director Brent Hartzell came up with a figure of 1.975%. According to the Census Bureau, the average annual salary is just $17,483 in Allentown, which means a city tax bill of $345.29.
Pawlowski scoffed at it. "That's a little more than you buy a cup of coffee for at McDonald's. He also warned this will negatively affect the City's bond rating.
Fed Ed has five days in which to accept or veto the budget. If he does so, City Council can override him at their December 13 meeting.
He has hinted all along that Council's actions are illegal and that he intends to sue. If he does, he won't be able to use the Solicitor because she represents both him and Council. He'd have to seek outside counsel. It will be interesting to see where he gets the money. I doubt Council will appropriate funds so they can be sued.