Tea partier lashes at Pinellas commissioners
Pinellas Patriots organizer Kris Gionet has blasted some of the Pinellas County Commission members and County Administrator Bob LaSala with an email Wednesday afternoon because the board refused to conduct a blanket, line-by-line review of every county department in the $1.64 billion proposed budget.
Gionet's email suggested the majority has shirked their duties on checking spending after Commissioners Neil Brickfield, Nancy Bostock and Norm Roche, all Republicans, failed to win a line-by-line review. Instead, the members will come with specific questions at Tuesday's meeting. (In debate, Brickfield said the board agreed to hear from departments; others said it was accomplished earlier this year when officials did department-level explanations of budget cuts.)
"In other words, just pass it, we trust Bob," Gionet wrote in her email.
That didn't sit well with Commissioner Ken Welch, the board's only Democrat, who suggested members asking specific questions would be more efficient (that of course, would require reading the lengthy budget).
"I'd ask you to review the streaming video of the meeting - I'm sure you want to be fair and balanced in your reporting," Welch wrote back.
The email exchange is on below.
On Jul 13, 2011, at 4:02 PM, "Kristina Gionet" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Good Afternoon Commissioners,
On behalf of the membership of Pinellas Patriots and the citizens of Pinellas County I would like to thank Commissioner Brickfield, Commissioner Bostock and Commissioner Roche for standing boldly for the citizenry of our great county and their hard earned tax dollars. Thank you for your courage in insisting that you receive a line-item by line-item budget detail. Even though you did not get exactly what you requested, please do not give up. During the up coming budget meetings there will be ample time to raise the question again.
As you know, Pinellas Patriots has a Board of County Commissioner Committee, I happen to be a member of that committee and as such, I am obligated to report to the entire group the happenings of the BCC. Please see the following report as is posted on our website today.
(Unelected by the citizens) County Administrator Bob LaSalas presented his county budget to the seven-member board. After two-hours of reading directly from a powerpoint slide presentation, Commissioner Neil Brickfield asked for a line-item by line-item budget breakdown of all county departments. This request was also made by Commissioner Nancy Bostock and Commissioner Norm Roche. By the way, both Com. Bostock and Com. Roche made this same request at the beginning of the FY 2012 Budget talks which began in ernest January 2011. Apparently this request has been ignored even though Com. Brickfield reminded the Board at this meeting that this issue was voted on and and the question was settled by 4 ayes and 3 nayes that this information would be provided.
After Com. Brickfield offered this reminder, Com. Latvala strongly protested as did Bob LaSala. Com. Morroni sat silent on the issue with Com. Welch siding with Com. Latvala stating that "It is the job of Bob LaSala and his staff to formulate a budget based on guiding principles as set forth by the board." In other words, just pass it, we trust Bob.
Towards the end of the exchange, Com. Seele offered a "hybrid" solution to Com. Brickfield's inital request, she suggested that the commissioners review the budget, and bring any concerns to the scheduled budget meetings that will be held in the upcoming weeks.
What were the reasons behind Com. Brickfield, Com. Roche and Com. Bostock requesting line-item detail?
ONE: So commissioners can fully understand the functions/duties of the County Departments under the financial jurisdiction of the Board of County Commissioners.
TWO: Identify any trends in spending increases or decreases for future budget preparation.
THREE: To enable the commissioners to knowledgeably converse with citizens regarding revenue streams, programs, expenditures and cuts.
FOUR: To facilitate a comparative analysis across the board for the purposes of limiting funding to non- essential programs and personnel so that retention or reinstatement of essential services and personnel can be funded. Without this comparative analysis, there will be no opportunity to move funding across departments.
FIVE: It [b]IS[/b] the sworn duty of the Board of County Commissioners to know EXACTLY where our taxes are going, to spend them responsibility and to save whenever and wherever possible. And it is the wise Commissioner that recognizes this duty.
Further commentary was offered at the end of this report, please go to http://www.pinellaspatriots.org/messages/boards/thread/13620891 to read the closing comments.
Again, thank you for your "political courage" I applaud you and offer my support and the support of the membership of Pinellas Patriots.
Kris Gionet, Organizer
From: "Welch, Kenneth" <email@example.com>
Date: July 13, 2011 5:00:07 PM EDT
To: Kristina Gionet <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: "Roche, Norm" <email@example.com>, "Bostock, Nancy" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Brickfield, Neil" <email@example.com>, "Morroni, John" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Seel, Karen" <email@example.com>, "Latvala, Susan" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Herring, Darlina" <email@example.com>, "LaSala, Robert" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: July 12th BCC Meeting
Kristina - your paraphrased "just pass it, we trust Bob" statement is neither accurate, nor reflective of my comments. I specifically said that we (Commissioners) should review the budget, then come back with *specific* questions and recommendations in our scheduled budget sessions.
I also said that I would agree to the line by line review if the other Commissioners would lay out a timetable, but that we should bring our own proposals to the table first. Commissioner Roche then referred to my suggestion as the "hybrid" solution.
I also stated that I already have some proposed changes in mind.
I'd ask you to review the streaming video of the meeting - I'm sure you want to be fair and balanced in your reporting.
Pinellas County Commissioner