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Published: Wednesday, 12/3/2008

McNamara: Police, fire debate stifled

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Councilman Joe McNamara last night accused council's president of trying to strong-arm him against presenting a plan to fund new classes of police cadets and firefighter recruits at the end of 2009 by altering the way the city's 0.75 percent income tax is allocated.

Mr. McNamara wants to ask voters in September to change how the revenue is dedicated - spending less for capital improvement projects and using that money to hire police and fire classes.

"By not allowing it on the agenda, you are stopping me from legislating," he said during last night's council meeting.

Council President Mark Sobczak denied Mr. McNamara's accusation and said his timing was poor.

"As far as the issue of stifling debate, nothing could be farther from the truth," Mr. Sobczak said.

Since Mr. McNamara's proposal was not permitted on yesterday's agenda, he moved to have it immediately considered, which requires eight votes for passage.

It failed to get immediate consideration by a 7-4 vote. Mr. Sobczak and Councilmen George Sarantou, Betty Shultz, and Lindsay Webb voted against it. Councilman Mike Craig was not present for the vote. However, the items now will automatically appear on council's Dec. 16 agenda, which Mr. McNamara said was his intention.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced last month that the city would not hire any new police officers or firefighters for 2009 to save money toward the needed $21 million in cutbacks built into next year's general operating fund budget.

The income tax, which was renewed by voters in March, is allocated equally to police, fire, and other safety departments; the general operating fund, and the capital improvements fund. The tax runs through the end of 2012. Mr. McNamara wants voters to approve changing the income tax in 2009 to allocate half of the taxes raised to police and fire and the other half to the general fund for the remainder of the next year after the September election.

That would generate $4.7 million for police and fire classes, he said.

Also last night, council put off a vote to reallocate $8 million in unspent capital improvement projects dating to 2000 to help balance a potential $10 million shortfall in this year's general operating fund budget.

The list includes nearly $1.1 million for Southwyck infrastructure improvements and $1.35 million for Ottawa River dredging. The measure was sent to council's finance committee for review.



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