PI Original Adam Doster Thursday July 30th, 2009, 9:23am

Dowell Seeks More Time To Review City Budgets

When the city council's Independent Caucus began making headlines,
one issue members stressed was budget reform. Specifically, members had
hoped to hire a staffer to not only conduct independent policy
research, but also help aldermen dig through the weeds of Mayor ...

When the city council's Independent Caucus began making headlines, one issue members stressed was budget reform. Specifically, members had hoped to hire a staffer to not only conduct independent policy research, but also help aldermen dig through the weeds of Mayor Daley 's complicated budget proposals.

Those plans never materialized. But the embarrassment of the failed parking meter lease deal has motivated some council members to shed some additional light on the city's rushed and often byzantine budgeting process. At City Hall yesterday, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) introduced the "Budget Review Ordinance." Similar to the asset review bill that passed last month, the bill would require Daley administration officials to provide the City Council with a proposed budget for the next fiscal year at least four weeks prior to the the first scheduled hearing. (Currently, aldermen have around seven days between the mayor's budget address and the first set of negotiations.) Those documents would also have to be posted to the city's website in what Dowell calls a "searchable format."

"The public and the Council has become more concerned with the amount of time and information we get for reviewing items that come through," Dowell told us yesterday. "As a new alderman who has gone through two budget fights now, I definitely believe I need more time to examine the draft budgets, including understanding contracts and figuring out how much revenue we collected the previous year."

According to Dowell, 30 council members have already signed on as co-sponsors. Because the council won't meet again until September, just one month before the FY 2010 budget is due, she is unsure whether the proposed changes can be implemented in time for that round of budget talks. But she wants the option on the table. And she doesn't think there is a good reason to oppose it. "Who can argue with wanting to have an adequate review period?" she asked.

The Daley administration will probably find a way.

Read the full ordinance below (click the button in the upper-right corner to expand):

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