By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Philadelphia city councilman’s plan to give council direct and final control over hundreds of millions of dollars isn’t sitting too well with a local political watchdog group.
This past week first district Councilman Mark Squilla proposed a change to the city charter that would allow council to control and actually spend one out of every ten taxpayer dollars.
Zack Stalberg, head of the good government group “Committee of 70,” says that would greatly upset the checks and balances in which legislature appropriates and the executive branch spends.
“What is supposed to happen under the city charter is that the mayor comes up with a spending plan, and city council evaluates it and alters it when necessary. And that’s a lot different than giving a big pot of money to city council to spend,” says Stalberg.
So while the Committee of 70 does not yet have an official stance, Stalberg’s initial response is thumbs-down.
“It worries us. The idea of putting $300 million in the hands of legislators and giving them discretion over how to spend that is a little worrisome,” Stalberg explains.
One-tenth of the current city budget would amount to well over $300 million. The councilman says the idea is to give council the ability to spend in key areas, as he put it, “to at least have the authority to pinpoint money to specific causes,” says Squilla.
Squilla’s move came after the mayor vetoed another plan from the councilman to add a four dollar surcharge on parking tickets, with half of that money going to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Squilla’s plan would likely face a lengthy legislative battle; it would first have to gain the full approval of council, then withstand a potential mayoral veto, and then be put to voters in a ballot referendum next spring.