By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
But perhaps the real effect of Lanier's fiscal strategy will not be felt until he's out of office. Lanier's projections show a leveling off of debt payments beginning in fiscal year 1999. That means there are no plans to call for a bond election to authorize additional debt -- even though Lanier promises a continuation of the kinds of revitalization projects on which his mayoral legacy rests. Instead, he has said he will initiate a "pay as you go" plan.
But his blueprint gives no indication where the budget surpluses and "other available funds" to pay as you go will come from. That leaves the next administration with essentially the same options Lanier had: cut city services or raise taxes -- or once again restructure the city's debt to free up money for services.
Much to the frustration of the controller -- and others -- these arguments are rarely heard outside newspaper and radio reports and Greanias' occasional speaking engagements. Greanias says his blackballing by the Lanier administration amounts to the city's chief financial officer being "systematically excluded" from budget discussions.
"I think it's their job, whether they agree with me or not," says Greanias, who laments the fact that few councilmembers have come to him to talk about Lanier's 1996 budget. "If they don't agree with me, it shouldn't be because the mayor's told them I'm wrong. It's because they sat down, looked at the numbers and said, 'I think you're wrong' or 'I see your point, but I think the mayor is philosophically where I am.'
"I expect that as a citizen. I expect that of the elected officials I put in office."
But recently, something happened that suggests Council may be evolving into more than a rubber stamp for Lanier. It started with an idea that emanated from outside the mayor's office, and ended with two councilmembers marshaling a coalition of their own and bringing a reluctant Lanier along.
For much of the past year, Martha Wong, chairman of Council's Competitive Services Committee, and Ray Driscoll have been working on a plan that would put selected city services out for bid. Their first proposal was a five-year, $13.7 million trash-collection contract with Sanifill Hauling.
Driscoll and Wong argued that the contract would save about $2 million. But it was unclear how much support it had from Council -- apparently because Lanier, never a fan of privatization, wasn't convinced it was a worthwhile deal.
There was also the strong opposition of Helen Huey, in whose district Sanifill is building a waste transfer station. Huey had succeeded in delaying a vote for a week while continuing to lobby Council for the eight votes she needed to defeat the contract.
At the Council's May 17 meeting, Huey planned a final emotional appeal to scuttle the contract. But before she could deliver it, Wong made a motion to end the debate.
And in what is perhaps a subtle indication of a shift in Council politics -- or at least an admission of fiscal realities -- Lanier turned on his favorite councilmember and called for a vote.
"This is a blatant exercise in raw political power," hissed Huey, who has tried on many occasions to undermine councilmembers' opposition to Lanier.
"I am hurt and Iam outraged," she added, glaring at both Lanier and Wong."
Maybe she should have been impressed. Or flattered.
After all, Wong and Driscoll had pulled together enough support, including that of the skeptical Lanier, to win by a 9-4 vote --a victory that, for the two councilmembers, may have called to mind Huey's own motto: "Working together does, indeed, work miracles.