City Council plans to hear from public on city budget

Yesterday, City Council leadership stopped by the Daily News editorial board to talk about the city budget. They expressed a lot of skepticism about Mayor Nutter's proposed trash fee and soda tax. However, Council President Anna Verna stressed that no one is making any decisions yet, because the public engagement process around the budget has just begun.

“We are starting the dialogue,” said Verna. “We will be having approximately six public hearings, including one on a Saturday, and we will have community meetings.”

Council members are already under intense pressure from opponents of the soda tax. Councilwoman Marian Tasco said she believed the feedback was part of a professional campaign by soda and bottling companies.

“I get the e-mails, but they aren't from people who live in the 9th Councilmanic district,” said Tasco. “It's organized. You get the same e-mail [from everyone].”

Council members believe public hearings will allow other voices to be heard. Councilman Darrell Clarke also said that broader public engagement, including in neighborhoods, was important because Nutter's proposals are extremely complicated.

“This [soda tax] is kind of convoluted. What happens if you buy this with sugar? If I get a coffee? We really need to explain to people what this means,” said Clarke.

The leadership team -- which also included Republican Frank Rizzo -- was careful to remain aloof about specific alternatives to the trash fee and soda tax. However, Verna did express frustration with those who have argued that the city has other easy choices.

“If someone has a ton of options, I wish they would share them with us,” she said. “We have been racking our brains.”

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