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Council’s budget wishes

As we know, City Council had its turn with the 2009 budget. The Chron has a look at some of the members’ requests, a few of which we’ve seen before, but I want to focus on this one:

Councilman Mike Sullivan of District E asked for as many fire inspectors are needed to inspect all common attics in apartment buildings across the city each year. This is Sullivan’s first budget season. He presented the most amendments, 15. Among his requests:

  • A next-generation “Jaws of Life” extraction device and a new set of high-intensity, portable rescue lights for each of the city’s 21 fire districts.
  • Installation of water-saving devices in all public restrooms in city-owned buildings.
  • Doubling of annual funding to the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership from $50,000 to $100,000 for the next five years.
  • More officers for Kingwood and Clear Lake police stations.

“Even though I am well-known as a fiscal conservative, I am proud to be working hard for my council district, and to be sure they have the basic city services they are entitled to,” Sullivan said.

I don’t know what the term “fiscal conservative” means to Council Member Sullivan, or to anyone else for that matter, but to me it means basically being prudent with the resources you’ve got to work with. It doesn’t, or at least it shouldn’t, mean being a cheapskate, and it doesn’t, or at least it shouldn’t, mean oppose spending for the sake of opposing spending, especially when such opposition is more Kabuki dance than fiscal policy. To me at least, supporting an appropriate amount of spending on needed services, and recognizing when that means more spending is needed due to population growth, cost increases, or just the need to do more, is perfectly in line with the concept of “fiscal conservatism”. It also means recognizing that sometimes it’s better to fund multiple priorities rather than force a choice between equally worthy options. The flip side to that, of course, is that one must also support an appropriate level of taxation to pay for those services, and that includes the recognition that sometimes taxes need to go up, since there’s nothing particularly prudent or conservative about needlessly running up deficits.

Your mileage may vary, as may Council Member Sullivan’s, but that’s how I see it. Sometimes the tough yet prudent choice is to find a way to pay for more rather than to hold fast to some arbitrary limit. This is all a longwinded way of saying that I find no conflict between Sullivan’s remarks and his actions. You’re not always going to be in a position to ask for more, of course, but doing so when it makes sense to do so is nothing to apologize for.

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One Comment

  1. Kevin Whited says:

    ** The flip side to that, of course, is that one must also support an appropriate level of taxation to pay for those services, and that includes the recognition that sometimes taxes need to go up, **

    The CoH is enjoying record revenues, so I don’t think we need to be talking about increasing the tax rate.

    Aside from the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership funding request, Sullivan seems to be asking for more funding for basic public services (infrastructure and public safety). Reallocating more funding to those basic public services makes a lot more sense than the pursuit of trinket government.

    It’s much harder to justify the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership request, however. There are just more important priorities.