Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dooley Crying Wolf

It's a good process. And it's a model that St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley should consider if he expects county residents to take him seriously.

Instead of leading a fair-minded discussion about revenue estimates and budget priorities, Mr. Dooley, a Democrat, spent the past couple of months crying wolf.

In August, as a prelude to presenting the budget, he told the County Council that revenue was $10 million behind last year's pace. To give police officers and other employees a much-needed raise, he said, there would need to be a tax increase. Otherwise, Mr. Dooley said, he would have no choice but to fire cops.

County Council Chairman Steve Stenger, a Democrat, objected. Mr. Stenger pointed to county documents that showed Mr. Dooley's numbers were wrong. Other council members followed Mr. Stenger's lead.

Mr. Dooley then changed his numbers. Twice.

Later, he apologized for the whole thing.

Then, in November, he submitted a new budget that also predicted calamity. He suggested that, once again, the county staff's proposed budget would have to be cut by $10 million.

This time Mr. Dooley cried WOLF! in capital letters, suggesting closing dozens of parks, laying off employees (though none from his own staff) and closing the West County satellite office.

County residents went nuts. The council stood firm and did the unthinkable. Horror of horrors, it formed a budget committee seeking actual facts.

Mr. Dooley again retreated, and now we're back where we started.

There's not really much of a budget problem. To the extent that it exists, it can be solved by thoughtful cuts, not dramatic ones intended to stir fear in the public. There will be no police officer layoffs or closed or sold-off parks.

The moral of this fable is an easy one: Numbers don't lie.

Here's what should happen going forward, regardless of who sits in the county executive's chair: The county council should be involved in the budget process from the beginning.

There is no reason the county executive and the council chairman couldn't follow the state process and agree on a revenue estimate from the beginning.

There is no reason — none at all — why the council shouldn't have a standing budget committee that does what it did over the past couple of months: Ask tough questions and force the county executive to back up his assertions and projections.

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  1. Anonymous12:56 PM

    This is the same tactic and strategy all the politicos and parties use. The Dems, the Reps, the Tea Parters, the Occupiers, the liberals and the conservatives.

    Everything argument and accusation is to the extreme. It is sad to see how the system has evolved or maybe disolved to and all time low. There is faith and confidence in the system.
    Charlie just did not do a very good job of selling his lie.

  2. Anonymous7:28 AM

    This is what you get when your leaders don’t use their heads for anything other than keeping their ears from slamming together.

  3. Anonymous3:34 PM

    This is what you get from lazy voters who don't take the time or spend the time checking things out.

    St. Louis County voters need to wake up and become engaged. It's the non voters who allowed this to happen.

  4. Anonymous9:36 AM

    Does Dooley ever open his mouth for any other purpose than to change feet?

  5. Anonymous8:34 AM

    this is just another example of dooley being inept and corrupt