President Barack Obama signed the $700 billion stimulus bill with the intention of jump-starting the American economy. As federal dollars start flowing, the money could also be an opportunity for Mayor Nutter to repair damaged relationships with City Council....that is, if anyone can figure out how it all will work.
Earlier today, Mayor Nutter's senior policy advisor Mark Alan Hughes testified in front of City Council about the administration's plans for spending stimulus dollars. His testimony was part of the capital budget hearing and left more questions than answers. Over and over again, Hughes told Council that he wasn't certain how much money would be coming into the city, how it would be allocated, or how it would be spent.
Several Council members expressed frustration. Councilman Darrell Clarke complained about lack of information coming from the administration. Addressing Hughes, Clarke said: “I know that you know some things about this. It would be helpful if you can kind of let us know and not leave us in the dark until the end," said Clarke. "We know we're not dealing with absolutes, but if you could give us some idea it would be helpful.”
Hughes responded by explaining that federal deadlins and guidelines were a moving target. Obama may have launched a website-- Recovery.gov – to allow the public to track spending, but it's clear that many decisions haven't been made at the top level. That's particularly scary given the money is supposed to be spent fast.
Over the coming weeks, Nutter will have the unenviable job of developing a stimulus spending plan that can get out the door quickly and have buy-in from City Council. Here is the critical question: Can Nutter build consensus without sacrificing speed?
For more, check out Pro Publica Eye on the Stimulus.