At last weeks public hearing on the City’s proposed $750 million budget, Mayor Gillum aimed his most pointed comments at a group of citizens who proposed a $100,000 cut in the Mayors office budget.
Mayor Gillum called the proposal a lie and then minutes later asked upset citizens to treat him with respect.
This is how the events unfolded.
Barney Bishop, a local business owner and a leader of the Citizens for Responsble Spending (CRS) group, was one of 50 citizens to speak at the public hearing. He was speaking on behalf of CRS.
Members of CRS had spent the last 2-3 months meeting with city officials and requesting information in order to make thoughtful budget recommendations.
Mr. Bishop went over the list of recommendations that included new sources of revenue and spending cuts. During the presentation, he offered comments about each item.
When it came to the $100,000 cut the CRS group proposed for the Mayors office, Mr. Bishop said, “Mr. Mayor, you want some more interns?. No way.”
The reference to interns addressed the $40,000 Mayor Gillum has decided to spend on the program.
The Mayor’s office budget is approximately $470,000.
After the speakers segment was completed, Mayor Gillum addressed the citizen members of CRS by calling the proposal a lie and questioned their credibility.
See the video below:
After insulting the CRS group, Gillum asked upset citizens to treat him with respect. Take a look and listen.
Near the end of the video, you can hear citizens saying “you called us a liar.”
The reason for the exchange runs deeper than anything mentioned at the public hearing.
Members of the CRS told TR the group had become frustrated with the Mayor’s lack of information on spending in his office.
Commissioner Maddox had asked about the spending weeks ago and no answer was provided.
In addition to the spending on the intern program, this year’s budget included a proposed $40,000 increase in the City’s lobbyist contract – a contract currently involving the Mayor’s former campaign manager and self-described confident – has added to the frustration.
The lobbyist contract, which had been handled by the Mayor’s office for the last 10 years or so, was moved from the Mayor’s office budget without notification or approval from the City Commission.
Some feel it was an effort by the city manager to provide cover for Mayor Gillum.
The bottom line is the Mayor was a strong supporter of the original 27% tax increase and did not feel there was any need to cut the Mayor’s office budget.
The Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Dustin Daniels, told the Tallahassee Democrat that “[t]he issues that some individuals around the community have brought up about our budget are red herrings; tactics seeking to politically charge the debate on the budget overall.”
TR will soon publish a comparison of expenditures on aides and interns in Mayor’s offices around the state.