On the evening of October 18, things got “nutty” at University City High School, where the first of eight “Budget Town Hall” meetings was held. The meeting was organized by mayor Jerry Sanders’s office to “discuss proposed changes to the city’s Fiscal Year 2012.”
The budget changes come as the City faces a $72 million budget deficit. On the chopping block are proposed cuts to public safety, public works, parks and recreation, and library services. Because the meetings are organized by the mayor’s office, there was no mention of Proposition D, which would increase the local sales tax by one half cent if approved by voters on November 2. However, many critics of the proposed tax increase consider the proposed budget cuts, and the timing of the meetings, a scare tactic.
“This is not a scare tactic,” was a remark made both by Sanders and fire chief Javier Mainar during Monday’s meeting. It was after Mainar made the remark that a man sitting in the front row exclaimed, “Yes, it is!”
Following presentations by heads of the departments facing cuts, Sanders answered questions submitted by members of the public on yellow pieces of paper. It was then that the same man who had spoken up previously said, “Is this a town hall?” to which the mayor answered, “This is a town hall, and you’re not part of it.”
The man criticized the mayor for answering “softball questions” and not having union representatives there to speak. The mayor asked the man several times if he wanted to leave. Within moments, a spokesman for the mayor’s office offered the man a yellow piece of paper. The man quickly scribbled something on it before handing it back. He left a few minutes later, before the end of the meeting. The paper had one word written on it: “nuts.”