Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Billboard Ben" or "Benny Deep Pockets"?

I like "Billboard Ben" better. What had been been a minor cold really hit me yesterday afternoon so I couldn't do anything last night. After the Saints game, I shouldn't be doing anything else today, but I can't ignore a great Gordon Russell article in yesterday's paper. I somehow missed it yesterday, but the article covers everything from Billboard Ben to Yachtgate to the city budget.

On Billboard Ben:
One of the big mysteries of the 2006 mayoral campaign -- precisely how much money 9th Ward minister and longtime Sewerage & Water Board member Benjamin Edwards Sr. poured into Mayor Ray Nagin's victory, and where it all came from -- has been solved.

Sort of.

Edwards, pastor of Third Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, quietly filed paperwork not long after the election indicating that he spent $269,250 in support of Nagin -- or about 13 percent of what the Nagin campaign spent by itself.

Hate to nitpick but that last sentence should end: "what the Nagin campaign claims to have spent by itself."

I'll defer to Dambala and others on the Yachtgate part, but it's good to read that:
Though The Times-Picayune has filed three public-records requests with City Hall for information about technology contracts, it took more than a month for city officials to produce a response.

Sadly, the following paragraph is not at all surprising:
The first request was filed more than a month ago, and the law requires a response within three days. On Friday, the Nagin administration said the records are being compiled and "as soon as (they) are available, we will contact you immediately."

Glad that the Picayune is asking questions, now I wonder when the seven dwarves (seven spineless solons?) will stop squabbling and start asking some questions. Russell's article ends with:
With the city's finances still in post-Katrina shambles, Nagin plans to wait until the last possible moment to submit his 2007 budget proposals to the council.

The City Charter provides that he must present his budget by Nov. 1, and that's when he will do it, during a special council meeting at 10 a.m.

The council then will begin hearings on the budget Nov. 9, with an eye toward adopting it by the charter-mandated deadline of Dec. 1.

It's unbelievable that, in the absence of a detailed budget, the city council will even consider the mayor's spending proposals without asking some obvious questions.

I'm positive that the administration's estimates of the cost of the recently approved pay increases were based on the current sizes of the police and fire departments. By my figuring, the cost of the pay increases would only run about a million a year more if both were brought to their pre-Katrina sizes. But it does make me wonder what size police and fire departments the mayor is budgeting for. I've seen no sign that anybody, on the council or in the press, is asking that kind of question.

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