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Council Rejects Some Vetoes, But Not All

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

May 26, 2009

It was quite an evening at the city council, as city legislators took up the budgetary vetoes of Mayor Eddie A. Perez one by one Tuesday night.

You'll recall that last week the council cut roughly $19 million from Perez's $547.6 million budget; late Friday, Perez fired back, putting $13 million of that money back. (And, from the 'Sorry we missed it' department, Perez also said he'd cut $273,000 from the council's own budget - which some on the council fearwould threaten half its staff.)

Tuesday's meeting, though, was far from smooth. Several items apparently went to the mayor with the wrong language. On at least one, the mayor may have cut the budget by more money than the budget had it in it to begin with. In the end, eight items were postponed until a meeting Thursday at noon.

But in case you weren't following Cityline's tweets Tuesday night, here are some highlights:

The council overrode the mayor's veto of its decision to cut his $1.5 million foreclosure program.

The council overrode the mayor's veto of its decision to cut $3 million from the education budget.

The council postponed action on the mayor's veto of its decision to cut $6.4 million from salaries and benefits.

The council failed to override the mayor's veto of its decision to cut $600,000 from his arts jobs stimulus program. That restores the program to its original $1.1 million budget.

The council overrode the mayor's veto of its decision to cut $1.5 million in its legal settlements account.

The council overrode the mayor's veto of its decision to cut its electrical budget by $1.25 million.

The council failed to override the mayor's veto to take some services out of the department of Human Relations.

The council overrode the mayor's veto of its decision to give the libraries $125,000 to increase their hours.

Still on the table is whether the mayor has the legal authority to cut the council's budget as he proposed. Councilman Matt Ritter, a Democrat, said he was concerned that the mayor's resolution was not properly made. It was a disagreement that stepped up the tension level between him and his former boss, Corporation Counsel John Rose.

For that matter, tensions all around were on the way up. Ritter said at one point that the council was "trying to be flexible, [but] we're not given the same flexibility back."

Jim Boucher, also a Democrat, was notably agitated when he told his colleagues that he had last week voted to make painful cuts only to this week see some of his colleagues back down.

"New information comes forward that suggests we may no longer have that rigorous goal" of cutting the budget to keep taxes down, Boucher said. That, he said, "is indeed disappointing to me."

Discussion also briefly touched on political patronage.

"I am concerned with the level of patronage in this city," said Luis Cotto, of the Working Families party, calling out a claims investigator paid by the city "who [was] also the Democratic Town Committee chair."

In response, Council President Calixto Torres said that small cities like Hartford have politically involved people who also do business with the city. "If they're not violating the law, and they happen to follow the process, then that's the process," Torres said.

That all said, there's a good deal left on the table. The council will reconvene Thursday at 12 noon.

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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