Council minority upholds Grebien’s biggest veto

Council minority upholds Grebien’s biggest veto

Tax increase back to 83 cents

PAWTUCKET – A three-member minority on the City Council scored a victory for Mayor Donald Grebien on his most important budget veto last week, effectively erasing the council’s previous cuts to the mayor’s spending plan.

Council members in the majority expressed frustration about spending long hours finding more than $400,000 in cuts in Grebien’s budget, only to have them reversed. If the council’s cuts had survived, the city’s proposed tax rate increase would have dropped from 83 cents to 73 cents.

David Moran said he was “extremely disappointed” with the way the vote turned out on an attempt to override Grebien’s veto of the council’s $402,638 revenue reduction in the mayor’s budget. The council “worked our butts off on this budget,” spending many hours to find savings, said Moran, and it was “basically thrown away” with the three blocking votes of the minority. The council president said he felt the Grebien vetoes were “railroaded” through.

The council needed votes from seven of nine members to override Grebien’s veto of a $402,638 reduction in revenues, but Councilors Meghan Kallman, Sandra Cano and Albert Vitali Jr. voted against doing so.

Kallman’s vote came with a request to Grebien that he not appoint a new public safety director using $140,000 of the $402,638. She said she hoped the mayor would respect the wishes of the council that he not hire a new director.

Grebien was giving no indication this week that he plans to halt the hiring process.

“I am very much looking forward to appointing and introducing a full-time public safety director to the community soon,” he said in a statement. “Our residents will benefit greatly from this added resource to bring our services to the next level, respond to modern challenges, better coordinate between departments, and ultimately make sure that we have the safest community possible.”

Kallman said she reached her decision to vote for the extra revenue after speaking with Finance Director Joanna L’Heureux and hearing about the city’s significant needs. Cutting more than $400,000 from the budget, especially with funding uncertainty at the state and national level, would have brought the city “too close to the margin,” she said. She said a discussion this budget season on cutting $500,000 from Pawtucket schools was “very, very frightening.”

Council members complained bitterly about the entire 2017 budget process. Councilor John Barry III said this year’s budget season was the worst he’s seen in his 30 years on the council, with a lack of explanations from Grebien on key spending measures.

Three-quarters of the council’s original proposed reductions to Grebien’s budget were in the public safety departments.

There were hints that the council could be in trouble in its bid to override Grebien’s veto when its fiscal adviser, Alan Tavares, questioned why the $402,638 amount was listed in one sum in Grebien’s veto. If that item got three of nine council votes needed to sustain the veto, he asked, would the budget revert to what Grebien originally proposed?

Officials confirmed that yes, the council could vote to override every other veto, including the cut in funding for the public safety director, and still see the $402,638 go back into the budget with a final vote on the revenue line item.

Dylan Zelazo, chief of staff to Grebien, told the council that the mayor simply vetoed the item that came to him from the council, and that was for a full $402,638. The various expenditures were not broken down into chunks.

When the council finished initial line-by-line votes on overturning Grebien’s vetoes, a community relations specialist position and a gun buy-back program, representing $58,302 combined, were added back in.

Barry, Moran and Wildenhain then all said they wanted to hold a vote on overriding the full $402,638 number and make Grebien find the $58,000 from the two line item overrides to pay for those two expenses during the year.

But members of Grebien’s administration said state law didn’t allow the council to pass an unbalanced budget, saying members would have to override the mayor’s veto on either the whole $402,638 number or none of it to avoid having expenditures exceed revenues.

Tavares then clarified for the council that if they overturned the two successful vetoes on smaller expenditures, they could then vote on whether to override the veto on the $402,638 revenue item and end up with a balanced budget.

After significant debate on the correct process, Cano, Kallman and Vitali all agreed to allow the two successful veto overrides to come back up for a vote, and then changed their votes to achieve successful line item overrides and set up a vote on the full $402,638.

When the vote on the revenue came back up, all three voted no on overriding the mayor’s veto, keeping the money in the budget by preventing a three-quarters vote on the override.


So let me see if I have this straight. Cano, Kallman and Vitali re-voted - ACTUALLY RE-VOTED - and CHANGED their original votes so the council could unanimously OVERRIDE EVERY SINGLE veto, thereby stripping out each item and restoring the $400K savings for taxpayers like me? And then the same three team up to actually vote to GIVE the mayor the $400K ANYWAY - but now without any items for it to specifically fund? Councilor Moran is right about being "railroaded." Those 3 puppets showed that we just don't matter.

In my opinion, the mayor will have to go back before City Council to re-establish the position titles that were eliminated by the vetoes having been sustained.

Just because his three rubber stampers voted to put back the revenue, it does not mean the position titles are put back into the budget, nor does it negate the personnel vetoes being sustained.

Simply put; money doesn't equal positions.

Also, we taxpayers can hold the rubber stampers directly responsible for increasing the tax raise.

They supported a bizare move that adds money to the budget that isn't specifically appropriated.

Following the mayor's orders isn't always good for the taxpayer, as this shows.

Finally good to see this City Council get a set back to their resist movement against the Mayor. If the Mayor recommends it, they feel they must resist. I'm so sick of seeing quote after quote that they "worked so hard on the budget." And they "take exception to the comments made by the Mayor or members of his staff" or using inflammatory nonsense (railroaded). Put on your big boy pants and stop playing the victim. So many positive changes have occurred under his leadership and so many more are on the drawing board (most with little help or creativity from the Council). But, most of the members of the City Council do their best to obstruct. Can't let him look too good! Sounds and looks like at least 1 or 2 current members are thinking about a run for higher office. Best way to make room for them is to knock him down. It's so obvious. Do your jobs. The old saying is so appropriate here- "Lead (not an option for most of the Councilors), follow or get out of the way." Might want to consider option 2 or 3.

The council's job is to act as a check and balance against the executive branch. Unfortunately, we see that this administration often makes up its own rules if doesn't like the score of the game. I can understand the council's frustration.

I attended the community meeting concerning Safety Director. Majority of attendees opposed it. I haven't met one member of our police department that sees a need for it and 7/9 members of the council oppose it, yet the mayor insists on shoving it down our throats, which he doesn't have the power to do.

And that is just one example. I'd be delighted to discuss the failure to enact the GPS program for city vehicles, the transfer station debacle, or any of the several other examples of the administration's double talk.

Asking questions is not being an obstructionist, it's a duty.

I have no doubt that the budget was crafted with the mayor doing his due diligence making a couple of "could go either way" decisions. The council had done their due diligence trying to save the city residents some coin on their tax increase. But whatever hard work and difficult decision making was all undone based on circus that happened with over-riding the veto.

If I were on the council I would be not happy with the admin and certain spokespersons that seem to be stirring the pot with the media. This is not New York City, L.A. or any other significantly sized city. In times like these (budget) the mayor should be speaking with the press himself, not have others do it. We did not elect the others, we elected you sir.

The blind rubber stamping needs to stop, its not helping anyone. Everybody in the city who has a clue knows exactly what your doing. This quote from the story above just proves my point. If she felt that way she should have voted in the majority. To ask the mayor to abide by something, after you cast your vote essentially backing his play, just ridiculous.

"Kallman’s vote came with a request to Grebien that he not appoint a new public safety director using $140,000 of the $402,638. She said she hoped the mayor would respect the wishes of the council that he not hire a new director. "

Come on.....