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City Council President Rejects Request For Hearing On Council’s Own Budget

(File photo: Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke speaks to reporters in City Hall.  Photo by Mike Dunn)

(File photo: Philadelphia City Council president Darrell Clarke speaks to reporters in City Hall. Photo by Mike Dunn)

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Despite a plea from a political watchdog group, City Council has no intention of holding public hearings on its own budget. Getting details of Council’s spending is no easy task.

The Committee of 70 this past week sent a letter to Council President Darrell Clarke, urging him to schedule a hearing on Council’s own budget, which is proposed at nearly $16 million for the coming fiscal year. Council has scheduled six weeks of hearings on the budgets of all other departments and agencies, but none on its own expenditures. And after the Committee’s request, Clarke rejected the idea.

“If anyone is interested in any aspects of City Council’s budget, it is public record,” Clarke said. “The question is, will we have a budget (hearing) where we question ourselves on the (council) budget? We’re not doing that.”

In the letter to Clarke, Committee of 70 Executive Director Zack Stalberg said Council should hold itself “to the same high expectations regarding its own proposed budget” as it has for the departments controlled by the mayor. But Clarke said no city council in the country publicly examines its own budget.

“I’m not clear where in the United States of America, when a legislative body during this process of reviewing the executive branch’s budget, also includes their particular budget as a part of that process,” he said. “If individuals are interested in seeing how and where we spend our money, that information is public record.”

The problem is, each year City Council’s public budget consists of two pages, one that breaks spending down into eight categories, the other a nearly blank page. In fact, each Philadelphia Budget since at least Fiscal Year 2008 includes the following statement for City Council’s budget.

“Council did not supply matching budget detail prior to the printing deadline.”

When KYW Newsradio asked Clarke’s spokesperson if he intends to provide more specific details of the spending of the 17-member body, she replied, “The Administration’s budget documents will be put on Council’s website as they are transmitted to Council.” And Clarke himself described reporters’ questions to him on the Committee’s request as “ridiculous.”

Council’s hearings on the budget begin this coming week and will continue through the end of April.

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