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Pierce County Council, exec at odds – again

Post by David Wickert on April 6, 2010 at 9:57 am |
April 6, 2010 12:24 pm

If you needed more evidence that relations between the Pierce County Council and County Executive Pat McCarthy remain strained, look no further than Monday’s council rules committee meeting.

Pat McCarthy

McCarthy accused the council of springing major budget cuts on the public at the last minute. Council Chairman Roger Bush, R-Graham, accuse the Democratic executive of ignoring council requests for information. The executive walked out of the meeting during the chairman’s remarks.

It was like 2009 all over again.

As I reported in December, the executive and council were at odds for much of last year. Monday’s rules committee meeting indicates relations remain strained despite pledges of cooperation.

At the meeting, McCarthy complained that the council unveiled a proposed $5.3 million cut to the general fund budget on the Friday before Easter without consulting her. And she noted the version considered by the rules committee Monday was different than the version released Friday.

McCarthy has complained several times that the council works in secret, unveiling substantive budget and other proposals at the last minute. She’s said that gives the public and county officials little or no time to review the proposals before the council adopts them.

On Monday she used the word “subterfuge” to describe the council’s handling of the budget cuts. She urged the council to wait a week to give the public a chance to review the cuts.

“I don’t see what the rush is to move forward,” McCarthy said.

Nonetheless, the council appears ready to move forward with the budget cuts today. Bush indicated there will be more last-minute amendments unveiled at the council’s 3 p.m. meeting.

Bush took exception to McCarthy’s remarks. “I don’t think this council has ever used subterfuge,” the chairman said.

Bush said the council has been transparent. He said Friday’s release of detailed budget cuts was earlier than in the past.

The chairman said McCarthy ignored a council request that she come up with a plan for budget cuts of 1 percent and 3 percent back in January. He said the council has demonstrated “remarkable restraint and patience” with McCarthy.

McCarthy didn’t stick around to hear those comments. She left as Bush was speaking.

Councilwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, took a gentler tone. She attributed the friction to the normal “stress and strain between departments.”

McDonald said other council members didn’t get Bush’s budget proposal until Friday, either. She said the council will recommend its own changes to that plan today.

“It’s a normal legislative process. In fact, it’s a lot better than Olympia,” McDonald said. “This is the way government works.”

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