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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 10:01 pm

Up next

New City Council could change budget process

Mayor Tim Davlin is sworn in on Friday, May 4, for a second term by Appellate Judge Sue Myerscough as his mother, Norene, holds a Bible.
Untitled Document Most people in Springfield want similar things: their sidewalks fixed or new ones installed, roads resurfaced, debris hauled away, a visible police presence. Getting these expensive services isn’t easy, however.
Next week, the newly elected members of the Springfield City Council convene for the first time. Although some council members appear content to go on with business as usual, others are planning to shake things up by introducing a slew of new ordinances, making improvements to old ones, and changing the way in which the city conducts business, including how money is distributed. Perhaps the busiest of the newcomers will be Ward 5 Ald. Sam Cahnman During his campaign, Cahnman announced plans for at least four new pieces of legislation. In the coming months he will ask corporation counsel Jenifer Johnson to begin drafting the necessary ordinances, beginning with one to require landlords to register with the city clerk’s office. Cahnman — who says that he’s taking the same focus with his ward duties as he did with the open-primary issue he pushed during his campaign last year for the 99th House District — will seek to pass ordinances mandating the placement of automated external defibrillators in public places and banning new drive-up liquor windows. Noise pollution will top the list for Ward 8 Ald. Kris Theilen when he gets to work. He says that one of his first acts as an alderman will be to make a major modification to the city’s current vehicular-noise ordinance, the enforcement of which he believes is too lax. Theilen’s measure, based on Peoria’s noise ordinance, would prohibit the playing of loud car stereo systems between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. and change it from a nuisance to a more serious violation of the city’s vehicle code. “It’s not like I’m tackling a sexy issue straight away, but I’m tackling an issue that affects people’s everyday lives,” Theilen says. The same could be said of traffic safety and control, but Ward 7 Ald. Debbie Cimarossa plans to make traffic one of her first priorities. Although she recognizes that stop signs aren’t always the answer, she wants to explore the possibility of placing a stop sign at Iles Avenue and Bennington Drive, an intersection she describes as “horrendous,” to help calm traffic on Iles.
Cimarossa says that business development along MacArthur Boulevard — her other big goal — could be spurred if the area were spruced up with flowers and landscaping and business owners there were encouraged to improve their façades. Ward 1 Ald. Frank Edwards has wanted a firehouse on Springfield’s southeast side for some time now. Despite being in the Republican majority on the council, however, Edwards doesn’t want to rush things. He’d rather hire an architect to ensure that any proposed fire station achieves maximum energy efficiency, and he wants to spend a year or so working out how to finance the project. One way, he says, may be to change the budgeting process. Edwards, who is entering his second term as alderman, says he likes the idea of zero-based, or ground-up, budgeting, as opposed to the current incremental budget process. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we came out of this thing with a new budget process,” Edwards says. “Why don’t we start from zero instead of what we had last year?”
Theilen and Cimarossa, both Republicans, and Cahnman, a Democrat, agree with Edwards that the zero-based approach isn’t a bad idea.
Cimarossa, a veteran of the Sangamon County Board, says that she would also like Springfield to implement the county’s practice of requiring all department heads to cut their budgets by 10 percent each year. “Just because we’ve done things the same way for 20 years doesn’t mean that’s the way it always has to be,” Cimarossa says. “One of my fears is overruns at the power plant. I do not want to go back to the ratepayers for an increase.”
Cahnman says that the zero-based technique makes sense: “There probably is some wasteful spending that we can cut out and avoid a tax increase.”
But the council can move money around under the current budget setup, says Ward 3 Ald. Frank Kunz, who adds that changing the process to a zero-based system will lead to more votes by the council. Except for basic infrastructure repairs, Kunz doesn’t have a wish list for his ward.
“There just isn’t any money. That’s why I don’t make big promises,” says Kunz, who has served under two different mayors. He adds: “I’m just peeved that people act like we sat on money and did nothing with it.”  

Contact R.L. Nave@illinoistimes.com
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