by Michael R. Allen
On January 18, Mayor Francis Slay released a list of budget changes he is suggesting to the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to address this year’s shortfall. Neither any alderman or Comptroller Darlene Green released any ideas ahead of the mayor, and none has released any since. Hopefully, we won’t just see a round of orders from the mayor’s menu — take this, leave that. After all, we are not discussing mere numbers but actual functions of government. The budget debate is as much about public service priorities as it is about money.
Readers of this blog will be most interested in the suggestion that the city eliminate the $130,000 annual payment from general revenue to the city’s Planning and Urban Design Agency. According to the mayor’s proposal, eliminating that subsidy will remove two full-time positions from the agency. One of those might be the Preservation Planner position in the Cultural Resources Office created by the Board of Aldermen in 2007. The Planning and Urban Design Agency has not even had a permanent director since Rollin Stanley’s departure in December 2007.
If we actually wanted a strong, pro-active planning agency, we would need more than the current staff level. Cutting two positions to save money is a step in the wrong direction, and the savings realized minuscule. Scratch that one off the list.