Sunday, February 24, 2008

Home Rule...Almost...

I apologize to my dozens of readers for my absence. February is a brutal month academically.


At the last Financial Control Board Meeting, as reported by
Urban Compass, the vote was formally taken to nominally hand over budgetary control over to elected officials. The Control Board would, during this time, act more as a guiding force, a last bastion against imprudent fiscal decisions.

Such a transition is reasonable as it will put some training wheels on Mayor Domenic Sarno's office and the City Council, largely similar to its pre-FCB days or having one or two members who grandstand for the sake of fiscal responsibility.

What was interesting was the little spat that erupted over personnel decision making. Sarno seemingly surprised the State-appointed Control Board members by offering an amendment to grant some personnel decision making power to the mayor. City Council President Bud Williams seconded the amendment. However, Chairman Chris Gabrieli objected to the suddenness of the motion. Board Member Robert Nunes backed Gabrieli, saying a more detailed proposal should be laid out first before the board can be expected to vote. Sarno backed down. It would not have looked good to be obviously voting for a power grab, even if it would be a 2-3 vote against with only state-appointed members opposing.

What bears pondering, is why did Sarno push for this? He claims that he wants to install his "team," but wouldn't that essentially mean a housecleaning of Ryanites in City Hall? Obviously all such people existed at the mercy of the Control Board anyway. Many of these Ryanites owe their loyalty to nobody still in elected office at 36 Court. Sarno's team obviously would.

Sources indicate that, really like most politicians in Springfield, Sarno has connections to some of the more to most unseemly creatures of the city's political establishment. Therefore, it is impossible to avoid questions about the quality of these people. That all depends on what Sarno owes the establishment or how brave he is opposing it. It also depends on where within the establishment he knows/owes people. Some of the elements are just entrenched, but otherwise benign and even competent. There are feuds within it. Families and friends rise and fall within it.

It is too early to declare Sarno's motion insidious. It is not wholly without merit, but it does deserve to be scrutinized. With the fiduciary responsibilities restored somewhat, we can really see what Sarno is made of and make judgements about personnel later.

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