fire dept stand-by staffing proposal passed, but with a twist

Most proposals considered by the city council are simple to understand. If a majority of the council votes in favor, it passes and the proposal is implemented. If not, the proposal is not implemented. Easy enough.

But at tonight’s city council meeting, item 6B on the agenda stated:

“To deny the request of Fire Chief Kiser to reinstate 2011 standby call-in procedure and overtime funding.”

The wording is this way because when the proposal was considered by the Finance Personnel Committee last week, it failed. So that committee’s recommendation to deny the request came before the council. But when it’s worded like this, the result of a vote isn’t so simple. In this case, if the proposal passed, that would mean the council approves the denial of the request and the fire department doesn’t get what they want. If the proposal failed, then no action is taken, and still, the fire department doesn’t get what they want. So either way, there was no way for Chief Kiser to win based on this particular vote.

I voted nay along with Alderpersons Bauer, Robinson and VanVonderen. So I basically said that I was denying the request to deny. But it was a 4-4 vote, in which case the mayor breaks the tie, and he voted aye. So the motion to deny the request passed.

Hannah O'Brien tweetI want to spell this out and make it clear, because if you read a tweet about it, or hear a blurb that says the city council denied the request, that’s not entirely true. In this particular vote, we didn’t have the power to approve the chief’s request. Now, we are the city council, and we certainly have the power to make a new motion or consider any changes to the budget, but we didn’t do that, not last night anyway. Hannah O’Brien, from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, does a great job tweeting about local politics, but on a negative vote like this, it’s difficult to explain in 140 characters or less exactly what that means. So, instead of replying to her tweet, I figured I’d explain it here.

Moving forward, I’m eager to talk about this more as part of the regular budget process. We’ll continue discussions on our 2013 budget in the coming months, working toward passing it by the end of this calendar year.