In response to a recent letter from the Fourth Ward Alderwoman regarding the Recreation Department, the fact that the city DOES track every financial transaction is getting lost. We have a purchasing policy that demands quotes or RFP’s, purchase orders, invoices and the council’s consent by resolution for payment. The controller signs off on every purchase order ensuring that funds are properly allocated and that lines are not over drawn. The Fourth Ward Alderwoman audits these purchase orders and invoices. She sponsors the resolution that authorizes us to pay our bills or receive earmarked donations. Why DOESN’T she know where every penny is going? Is she telling us that for the past nine and a half months, she hasn’t understood what she was looking at?
If the Alderwoman wants the reporting mechanism changed (which the Recreation Director and Controller have both agreed to) she should work collaboratively with staff and the rest of the council to develop a format so that she may digest this information.
The Recreation Director and Controller, as am I, are more than willing to help. Further, if she cannot understand the budget we can set time aside to discuss this privately in a respectful way.
It is concerning that there is continued discourse about recreation department contributions as though there has been obfuscation or fraud, when every single donation is accepted through resolution and tracked by the controllers office. Donations that are earmarked for a particular purpose are ONLY used for that purpose. We are very careful about that so that the future may hold more in the way of sponsorships or contributions. The intimation that there is a lack of accountability is FALSE.
Other problems arise when the Fourth Ward Alderwoman asks for inconsequential information (i.e., the name of all teams that played in the parks for the past five years, the dates they played, and who they played.) or she asks our Recreation Director for the utility cost of each park. He DOES NOT handle this. He does not request utility funding, track invoices or issue payments. The Controller does and the Fourth Ward Alderwoman has repeatedly been told that fact.
My biggest concern is that in all of the drama regarding this small department, murals, the Mayor’s car, or basketball, I still do not see a plan to address the REAL issues or problems in the city… blight, public safety, and growth. These escapades set us all out chasing our tails instead of leading responsible change.
It’s been over nine months. What is the Fourth Ward Alderwoman’s plan? How will she and the council address our problems in a reasonable way? They must stop chasing rumor and innuendo and, instead, look for best practices and work collaboratively. Vilification of staff that has effectively been at this for years is deplorable. Why wasn’t exactitude at the golf course necessary earlier this year? The Transportation Fund is expecting a shortfall that could be as much as $100K. Where’s the outrage? Recreation is hardly a sliver of the budget and all is accounted for. How about finding out staff goals and figuring out ways to support them? What about infrastructure improvements? Needed demolitions? Equipment purchases? Should we put off all investment indefinitely and wish our problems away?
In six years, with the cooperation of past councils, we strategically changed our city in so many ways for the better. I see this process has stalled. Indeed, there now seems to be a willingness to fight tooth and nail for the status quo. It’s a shame. We should take advantage of the rest of this term to develop at least a couple goals and bring them to fruition. As I had indicated in my last letter to the editor, I hope opportunity, not discord, will become the focus of our council.
Mayor Ann M. Thane