City Paper is not for tourists
First Vincent Gray went after Victor Reinoso. Now Mary Cheh‘s going after his boss.
The Ward 3 councilmember, as chair of the council’s government operations committee, is proposing to reduce the budget of the Executive Office of the Mayor by $287,000 and three employees.
All of that comes from the Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs, what is essentially the mayor’s lobbying shop. In past months, especially since the departure of Deputy Chief of Staff and OPLA Director JoAnne Ginsberg, the council’s been grumbling over a lack of communication and information sharing—-a dispute which culminated in a contentious March 13 oversight hearing where Cheh clashed with new OPLA head Bridget Davis.
This is what Cheh’s committee report had to say:
When the Fenty administration took office in 2007, OPLA worked to develop a supportive relationship with the Council. Over the past year, this relationship has deteriorated. While OPLA still proffers a desire to cooperate, members of the Council have witnessed a reduction in the willingness to share information and operate in a transparent manner. Efforts to engage the executive branch have been hampered, executive witnesses invited to Council hearings have been purposefully withheld, and agencies’ responsiveness to Council oversight has slowed significantly. The uncooperative behavior of the executive branch, and OPLA in particular, has sometimes bordered on legislative interference.
The Committee notes that while 11 full-time employees may enable increased communication, without the desire to work collaboratively, such an outcome is unlikely. In the past, the staff at OPLA has been smaller. Although the Committee respects the Mayor’s authority to develop and implement his own policy agenda, the function of OPLA has been revealed as primarily a legislative-focused entity, working to coordinate activities between the executive and legislative branches. Despite this focus, the Committee notes repeated efforts to limit the Council’s ability to conduct oversight. As a result, a budget of $1,051,000 is excessive.
The report also said, “The Committee considered a more substantial reduction to the Office, but opted to instead monitor OPLA’s actions over the next year and reconsider the matter during the FY 11 budget cycle.”
Here’s what Attorney General Peter Nickles has to say about the proposed cuts: “My view is that it is objectionable. We did not touch the council’s budget and it’s been a longstanding practice that the council doesn’t touch the mayor’s budget….It’s really uncalled for, and, to me, it seems spiteful, without any foundation in logic and substance.”
LL asked Nickles if he was considering any recourse: “There are matters that the executive can consider when tradition is broken. There are various options. I would hope that the council would reconsider this. You don’t see the Congress cutting the White House budget and the White House cutting the
Council Congress’s budget. All you do is generate antagonism and confrontation there’s no need for.”
Nickles went on to address the council’s preliminary vote to dock Reinoso’s funding and other changes: “Looks to me like we’re going backward again….I thought the council said, we’re going to give this five years. What’s the State Board of Education getting more money for? They don’t do anything—-my understanding is that the council isn’t giving them more authority….It sends the wrong signals. All around the country…the view is to give the mayor the authority and hang with the mayor, hang with the chancellor, and give the new structure a chance to work.”