New City Council President Darrell Clarke is sticking to the tradition of his legislative body holding a budget hearing for every city department and agency... except City Council itself. Clarke, while visiting the Daily News editorial board this afternoon, offered that he plans to "enhance the ability for people to see what's in Council's budget."
How? Clarke repeatedly refused to say. Even though the budget season starts with a public hearing tonight at 6 p.m. in Southwest Philadelphia.
This question comes up during every budget cycle: Why does Council take nearly two months to ask detailed questions about the budgets of departments and agencies such as the Mayor's Office, Managing Director's Office, police and fire departments, the Sheriff's Office and the First Judicial District but never answer questions about how Council spends its own budget.
Council's budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is $15 million about the same as it was for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Add in expenses like benefits for Council staff and technology support and maintenance, the actual cost is more like $22 million, according to a city report released last year.
"In all honesty, I'm not going to let individuals who have a particular interest about this turn City Council's process into a clown show," said Clarke, who insisted that information about Council's budget is available to the public for the asking.
Asked when he would reveal his effort at transparency in the Council budget, Clarke said: "When I tell you. You'll see there will be an enhanced process as it relates to Council's information on its budget."
The Committee of 70 asked Council candidates last year if they would support holding public hearings on Council's budget. Council members Bill Green, Maria Quinones Sanchez, Mark Squilla, David Oh and Denny O'Brien supported the idea. Only Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown opposed it while many other candidates simply did not respond.