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Amid Bitter Fight, Council Clips Budget, Madrid's Wings
After a few hours of angry debate and a series of votes that, in the parliamentary form of government would be seen as a vote of "no confidence,'' a council majority Tuesday night approved the city's annual budget but made it clear it wasn't supporting all of Madrid's efforts in the city.
At the center of the heat wasn't the city's multi-million dollar budget, but a series of small cuts the council members had made in areas that were identified as pet areas of the mayor, including council travel and spending on the mayor's participation in the National League of Cities and the U.S. Council of Mayors.
In a long treatise prior to the city staff's budget presentation, Madrid (photo right) called the cuts to travel and participation in the national associations as narrow-minded and politically motivated, hurting the city's interests and standing in the state and nation.
"I've been out there and the community's appetite for political shenanigans is reaching the gagging point,'' Madrid said. He singled out new council member Kristine Alessio, saying her opposition to his attendance at a national seminar in Las Vegas was based on "a healthy dose of ignorance.''
Alessio fired back saying Madrid's criticisms inaccurately portrayed her opposition to his travels.
City Councilman Ernie Ewin criticized Madrid for making personal attacks within his budget presentation.
"I take offense at you pointing out an individual in such a bullying manner,'' Ewin said.
Madrid went on to defend the work done by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Council of Mayors -- group's Madrid has long histories with -- in helping La Mesa develop safer streets, anti-obesity programs and winning a variety of competitive grants. He also pointed out what he said were large subsidies the council has allowed for other community efforts, including Oktoberfest, which "do nothing for this city.''
At the prompting of City Councilwoman Ruth Sterling, City staffers enumerated a number of on-going efforts that would be hurt by pulling out of the National League of Cities and, as the council eventually passed the budget, funding for the National League of Cities was restored, but cuts to the council travel budgets and the U.S. Council of Mayors stood. The council also retained the council member car allowances, but Alessio made it clear she wouldn't be accepting that stipend.
When the meeting ended, Madrid wasn't claiming even partial victory with the restoration of the National League of Cities money, perhaps because he will still need permission of the council members to attend any of the league's meetings.
In fact, Madrid Tuesday formally asked the council for permission to attend an upcoming meeting of the league's energy subcommittee meeting in Florida. Madrid's motion found no support. In parliamentary terms it failed without a second.
Lost amid the personal vitriol flying about the chamber was the fact that an improving local economy had spiked sales tax revenues in recent months, allowing the council to pass a budget that will only slightly reduce the city's reserves next year. That's something all five council members could vote for.