In early April, mayor Christopher Taylor vetoed a city council resolution. It was his first veto since he was elected in 2014–but with his council allies now badly outnumbered, it’s unlikely to be his last.
The veto came after council agreed to fund both sides’ wish lists.
First, members voted seven to four to add $880,000 for affordable housing, $880,000 for climate action, and $440,000 for pedestrian safety to the next budget. The $2.2 million total exactly equals the rebate the city will receive from the new county police-mental health millage, divided just as it would have been under a policy Taylor and his allies approved before the millage was passed. But though the mayor co-sponsored the resolution, it didn’t mention any of that.
That was Taylor’s concession to councilmembers who didn’t feel bound by their predecessors’ policy. And it worked: three members of the new majority crossed over to back the spending motion.
But then the new majority reunited behind a resolution of its own. This one allocated $1.5 million to the other items on the city’s recent residents survey: mental health services, street repairs, drinking water safety measures, water and sewer improvements, and police services. It also passed seven to four–but the veto scuttled it.
Taylor emails that by explicitly reallocating the rebate, his opponents’ resolution “would have imperiled the long-term funding of climate action, affordable housing, and pedestrian safety.”
Taylor says he expects city administrator Howard Lazarus to include in the budget most of the items in the vetoed measure anyway. But the mayor wants it be identified as coming from the general fund–which, he points out, just got a one-time $2.1 million boost from the city’s risk fund and an ongoing $600,000 raise from new construction.
If there’s money for everything, isn’t the question of where it comes from purely symbolic?
Taylor replies that using the money as promised “is an obligation of honor, and we have the obligation to be honorable.” He adds that there’s also “an important substantive benefit” to maintaining the original allocation: “It provides meaningful funding to these critical priorities for nearly ten years. That’s not symbolism. That’s reality.”
The reality for now, anyway: the new majority failed to get the eight votes needed to override the veto. But this is only the first year’s rebate–the millage has seven years to go. If the balance of power shifts further, Taylor’s foes may yet be able to make their priorities stick.
Taylor isn’t finished vetoing. “The next likely opportunity will be the budget. I suspect that I’ll find it acceptable as is. Conversation about any budget amendments is likely to be contentious. If council amends the budget, the budget is also susceptible to veto. In the event an amended budget is vetoed, the administrator’s budget becomes our budget going forward.”