Yesterday we had two critical city council meetings.
At 4pm, we met to discuss our response to the ongoing wave of civil litigation. We received proposals from several law firms to help defend the city. Our goal right now is to have a steady hand. We took the presentations under consideration and will meet again on Tuesday. While we are laying off workers and cutting key services, it is a bitter pill to swallow that we need to hire outside lawyers but that's the reality of the situation. Step one is to get some impartial eyes in and then when we get the real facts decide the just legal strategy.
During the second meeting, we had to vote on the tax rate for the coming fiscal year. As I discussed previously, the option presented by the mayor was to raise taxes by a certain amount (3 mils). The council could then accept that amount, raise taxes more, raise taxes less, or raise taxes not at all.
We opted to go with the 3 mils proposed by the mayor but it looks like we're going to reject other parts of his proposed budget when the remainder of the budget comes up for a vote on September 13.
The meeting began with public comments from workers who are being laid off. They were rightfully devastating in their reflections on how city leadership is handling their livelihoods. I'm disappointed that the mayor chose not to attend to hear the people in this part of the process.
We then moved into a discussion about the proper tax rate. As I've said before, we have reached a point where we had to raise the tax rate in order for the city not to hit junk bond status. There was some consideration of raising the tax rate above the 3 mils proposed by the mayor but we didn't for two reasons: 1.) The negative effects and burden on the people of Jackson and on our ability to attract new businesses/residents outweigh the positives of having more to spend in the short run; and 2.) a majority of council members believe that if you give the current administration one dollar more than the minimum they need for operations right now, they will squander it. That's just where we are.
Frankly, over the last week, a curtain has been pulled back into how things are really working at city hall. Two weeks ago, I was arguing for 4 mils. Last night, I argued for 3 mils and more cuts. For the next 10 days we need to get rid of more fluff and put in place some objective oversight and benchmarks or we'll be in the same place next year needing to cut millions and with no savings.
Kingfish note: Bad news. Anna Wolfe is gone on vacation this week. Here are some excerpts of her report on the meeting:
Three law firms and one sole practitioner hoping to be hired to defend Jackson against a sexual harassment lawsuit involving Mayor Tony Yarber made presentations to the City Council on Friday.
Firms Adams and Reece; Phelps Dunbar; Bradley Arant Boult Cummings; and lawyer Sam Begley appeared before the council. Rest of the article.
Tuesday should be fun as the council will make a decision on retaining outside counsel.