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Their dirty work done for them

Is that reputation repair work that my friends at the News Virginian are doing for Vice Mayor Frank Lucente and City Councilman Bruce Allen on their op-ed page?
“Officials like (Lucente) and Allen, who are willing to plunge into the books looking for savings, are rare to the point of vanishing. Government needs more leaders who live out the fiscal conservatism they espouse on campaign trails,” the paper offered in an editorial from earlier in the week on the ongoing budget deliberations on Waynesboro City Council, which the NV would like you to believe are being driven by the libertarian conservatives Lucente and Allen and their cost-cutting jonesing.

If Lucente and Allen were line-item types of guys, this would be all well and good. But to put it bluntly, they’re not. Let’s go back to January, and a discussion of the then-upcoming 2009-2010 budget season, and a proposal that was on the table regarding the need for a busy schedule of budget work sessions to comb line by line through the city budget.

“I have a lot of faith and trust that you and staff can come up with a budget that we can live with,” Lucente said, referencing as the “you” in the sentence City Manager Mike Hamp. “Once that tax rate’s done, and you present your budget, I think I can look at that – I don’t, I, unlike you, don’t want to line-item it as long as it is in balance,” Lucente said, referencing as the first “you” Hamp again, and as the second “you” City Councilwoman Lorie Smith, who had brought up the idea of the work-session schedule back in January and raised the issue again a couple of weeks ago, only to be shot down by Lucente a second time.

The budget-review schedule favored by Lucente has City Council spending all of four hours to review the proposed $39.4 million general-fund budget. That’s just short of $10 million of city spending per hour for the review process, doing some quick math.

When it comes to the specifics of “plung(ing) into the books looking for savings,” Lucente had this to say: “I wouldn’t want to micromanage that process to that degree. What’s big to me is the overall picture – which is I think it’s important what the tax rate is going to be, and we’ll decide that as a group. And then present your budget. And based on that, it should be in balance.”

To be fair to Councilman Allen, we don’t have anything of substance from him on the matter of how much time he would want to see City Council spend plunging into the books. His on-the-record comments of note have Silent Bruce more focused on reminding taxpayers that he has little to say about city matters.

Back to the observation that the NV is engaging in repair work. “Government needs more leaders who live out the fiscal conservatism they espouse on campaign trails.” Well put there.

It would help if our friends up Main Street would take a similar approach. Because given the facts, this editorial reads more like a Lucente-Allen campaign press release than something coming from anything resembling a neutral point of view.


– Story by Chris Graham

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