Why were some City Council members MIA at budget hearings?

Posted: May 17, 2013

Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: Jan Ransom's Tax Scorecard.

CITY COUNCIL held a marathon of hearings the last two months on Mayor Nutter's proposed budget, but some members were missing in action.

The Daily News kept tabs as to which Council members showed-up to the hours-long hearings and which didn't.

Councilman Bill Green missed the most - 15 out of 16 scheduled budget hearings. The absentee runner-up was Republican Councilman Brian O'Neill, who missed 11, followed by Councilwoman Marian Tasco, with nine. (This figure doesn't include hearings in which departments were called back to provide more information.)

Council President Darrell Clarke, who led the budget hearings, and Republican Councilman David Oh never missed a hearing.

Why were some members MIA?

"The entire idea of waiting four hours and asking 15 minutes of questions is just not a good use of anybody's time," said Green, known for asking tough, smart questions in past budget hearings. He said he has found it more effective to meet with various departments directly.

O'Neill said he tends to skip budget hearings unless he has questions for the department testifying.

"I can listen from my office or any place with a monitor and other times it's just a personal choice," he said, adding that he attended budget hearings related to the city's new property-tax reform. "You develop a sense of when to be in the room or whether to do something else that will benefit constituents."

Tasco said she also listens from her office, which allows her to juggle tasks. If she has questions, she shows up. She added that she can also follow up with departments via email.

But Zack Stalberg, president of good-government watchdog group Committee of Seventy, called those responses "unfortunate" while describing Green's absence as "odd."

"The City Council's biggest responsibility is oversight of the city budget, and when a Council member doesn't show up, it's a bad sign," said Stalberg. "Is it tough to be there so many hours for so many days? Yes, but they're being paid the big bucks and that's what taxpayers are paying them to do."

-Staff writer Sean Collins Walsh

contributed to this report.


 


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