Sitting in our monthly mayor’s meeting this past week, we were lamenting the fact that what is happening in Washington, D.C., with the latest fiscal crisis paints us all with the same brush even here at the local level.
“Citizens blend us all together,” said one mayor.
So I began jotting down a list of all the ways that Gloucester is not like Washington, D.C. Here are the top 10:
1. We don’t have a deficit. The city has struggled with this in the past and it is very difficult to stay out of the red, but with fiscal discipline, it can be done.
2. We balance our budget. Expenses equal revenues, and we live within our means year after year. By law, we can’t implement a deficit-spending budget like Washington, D.C. can.
3. We cut expenses. So that we can live within our means, we cut spending. We do less with less.
4. We raise revenues. We know that expenses have been rising faster than revenues, and in addition to cutting expenses to bridge the gap, we also raise taxes as allowed under Proposition 2 ½.
5. We fund our mandates. I would never make a promise to the citizens of Gloucester that brings, for example, the Sawyer Free Library back up to appropriate levels and then not fund it. Rather, we level with the citizens and say that services will come back in a sustainable manner, i.e., recurring revenue needs to be sufficient to support recurring expenses.
6. We fire people. This is an echo of former Sen. Scott Brown’s famous question, “What does it take to get fired (at NOAA)?” When we fire people, sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn’t because of labor protections in place, but we aren’t afraid to do it if necessary.
7. The executive branch and the legislative branch work collaboratively. My administration and the City Council may have our skirmishes, but overall, together we have moved this city forward in many positive ways.
8. We put city over party rather than party over country like they do in Washington, D.C. At the local level, we do not run on a party platform. We can’t say, “oh, the party made me do it.” We must tackle every single issue on its own. What’s best for the city guides us. Washington DC seems to do what’s best for their political party rather than what’s best for the country.
9. The negative outlook on our bond rating was removed. A negative outlook was placed on the US bond rating. Washington, D.C., are you listening?
10. We have the Cape Ann Museum. Washington, DC has the Smithsonian. Ok, this one is a tie.
Fiscal discipline, accountability, collaboration – those are all Gloucester words. Debt ceiling, fiscal cliff, sequestration — those are all Washington, DC words.
Thank goodness Gloucester is not like Washington, D.C.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.