Greetings, City Council aficionados. Yesterday's FY 2014 budget hearings were about as exciting as watching paint dry. The lineup included the Mayor's Office, the Mayor's Executive Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development, the Mural Arts Program, the Managing Directors Office, the Procurement Department (contain your excitement) and the Office of Innovation and Technology.
Mayor Michael Nutter's Chief of Staff, Everett Gillison led off the morning's testimony on behalf of the Executive Office of the Mayor. The Mayor's Office is requesting $5,341,881 which is an increase of $1,437,752 over the FY 2013 estimated obligations. A majority of this budget request falls within Class 100 funds, or salaries. A majority of these employees are being transferred from other City departments which accounts for a large portion of the increase. They are also looking to employ three (3) full-time and one (1) part-time employee as new hires to strengthen the Graduation Coach Campaign.
Another area expected to see greater financial support in the FY 2014 budget is the new Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs (OIMA) as well as the Mayor's Education Office. OIMA, presently composed of two staffers, is charged with making Philadelphia a welcoming city to all ethnic groups.
Gillison also boasted about the success of the Mayor's Office of Sustainability. He asked Office Director, Katherine Gajewski to address Council briefly where she informed the members that since 2009, the Greenworks Philadelphia plan has led to the reduction of municipal energy usage by 5% which translated to a whopping $4 million in avoided costs.
A major theme of the day, outlined in all subsequent testimony and questioned by many members, was the issue of minority, woman, and disabled-owned businesses (M/W/DSBE) participation in contracting. The M/W/DSBE participation rate paid out of the Mayor's Office was 26% for the first half of FY2013. Just for reference, the FY 09 rate was 13%.
Eva Gladstein was next at bat testifying in her capacity of Executive Director of the Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (formerly the Office of Community Services). They are seeking $8,690,533 Gladstein discussed how CEO helps vulnerable Philadelphians move towards self sufficiency. It's important to note that the funds CEO is seeking come from the Grants Revenue Fund and not the General Fund. Gladstein was able to secure five (5) grants from non-City organizations. In short, CEO's two main functions are to provide strategic support in the development of an anti-poverty plan in the City and to serve as a single point of contact for all of the City's anti-poverty efforts.
Batting on behalf of the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development was Housing Director Deborah McColloch. McColloch's office is requesting $163.857 million from four different funds (grants Revenue Find, Community Development Find, the Housing Trust Fund and the General Fund). The office has seen a decrease in funding due primarily to the federal sequester and the loss of one-time stimulus funds.
Taking the prize for the most energetic witness of the day, Jane Golden, touted the successes of the Mural Arts Program. Requesting $1.15 million, a majority of the program's funding come from outside sources. The MAP's partnership with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services is an innovative program designed to promote health and wellness in Philadelphia as well as include those with intellectual disabilities in this exciting program.
Managing Director Rich Negrin, discussed his department's $79,091,792 request. The bulk of his funds ($39,056,067) are being directed towards Legal Services covering the Defender Association of Philadelphia, Support Center for Child Advocates and Community Legal Services. Negrin was pleased to report the success of the Philly311 program which is overseen by his office designed to interact with City residents in ways to find solutions to city problems. Another feather in his cap is the Center for Excellence which was established to train City departments in organizational development, project management and performance management.
The Procurement Department was represented by Commissioner Hugh Ortman, where he defended his request of $4,712,143 followed by the Office of Information Technology led by the Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid, who requested $84,994,181.
Because of the exciting nature of all of these departments, member's questions were generally focused on general organizational structures. Councilmembers Blackwell, Goode, Jones, Quinones-Sanchez, Reynolds-Brown andTasco all asked questions about M/W/DSBE participation rates among most departments as well as woman and minority hiring procedures. Quinones-Sanchez was particularly irked by the fact that only 7 Latinos are presently serving in the Fire Department.
Councilwoman Blackwell expressed concern about the lack of inclusion of the African and Caribbean Communities in the Office of Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs.
Councilman Goode demanded to know why the Mayor's two appointees to the School Reform Commission were not aware of the additional $60 million being requested by the SRC that the school district did not include in their initial budget request. He was perplexed by the fact that the administration was not involved during any part of the school district's budget development.
Councilmembers Oh and Squilla asked where the additional $60 million in funding requested by the SRC would come from.
And in the most interesting line of questioning of the day, Councilwoman Tasco continued her questions about why capital projects in her district were held up for so long. When it was clear that she was not going to get the answer she was looking for from Chief of Staff Gillison, the Councilman interjected with "just stop, just stop, just stop, stop. This is bull sh*t"
Tomorrow, Council's Committee of the Whole will convene budget hearings at 10am with the Finance Department, the City Treasurer, the Sinking Fund and the Board of Pension and Retirement.
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