Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Budget Meetings: Hour 1

Feel like an impromptu civics lesson? Feel free to follow along with my coverage of the City of Madison budget hearing process. Our radio station is launching a new project, but the material I create for it is not available to the general public yet. So I figure, why not share that coverage in a venue where it might get seen by one or two people instead of none... Enjoy!

Also, my friend Kristin Czubkowski from the Cap Times is keeping a minute by minute liveblog of the hearings, if you're die hard enough to follow along. But read MY blog first, because it will irk her somewhat if you do.

So it begins.

The city council led off its budget hearing innocuously enough this evening. Following the 22-hour, three night budget "marathon" of 2007, the council altered the rules governing the hearings a little bit. The game plan is to take all the comments from members of the public in one fell swoop tonight. Once that is out of the way, the board will make what progress it can on the capital budget, or one-time expenditures on items like equipment and facilities.

Right now, there are 28 proposed amendments to the capital budget as it was put forward by the Mayor. The council will go through those and vote them each up or down before proceeding to the operating budget, where there are 45 amendments on the table.

So far, nearly a dozen members of the public have sounded off on budget items; ranging through everything from funding for the arts to the Central Park plan to solar systems. The big topic, unsurprisingly, has been the plan to raise bus fares from $1.50 to $2.00, and the feedback has been exclusively negative.

By the look of the public seating area, we're in for plenty more speakers before the council gets their turn. Most of the alders have water bottles, coffee mugs and snacks at their stations along with the usual clutter of notes, binders and laptops. As I understand it, we'll be here until 10:30 or so, and likely the same time tomorrow night. The progress made between now and then determines how late the meeting goes Thursday night, when the board is slated to FINISH whatever is left of the 73 amendments.

Everyone's settling in for the long haul.

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