Yesterday's NY Sun editorial on the city council budget mess was a real first. For the first time there was an editorial focus on the over all budget problem-something that is systemic and does not relate exclusively to the malfeasance of the legislature. As the paper points out: "Lest the City Council slush fund be interpreted as just another dog-bites-man story about corrupt local government officials, the point needs to be made that this was a double default. Not only did the City Council create a slush fund by allocating funds to dummy organizations that did not even exist, but Mayor Bloomberg — the mayor with a reputation as a competent businessman manager — failed to exercise oversight over the money."
Exactly right; and that's not all, the Sun also takes a look at the opacity of mayoral spending, and the lack of any real oversight anywhere: "It was the inevitable consequence of a city budget process that is a sham. At the federal and state level, there's oversight and negotiation between the executive branch and the legislature over how much gets spent and on what. In New York City, there's no such negotiation. The entire budget "negotiation" is a talk about how much money the Council will get to spend itself, however the various members want."
What the Sun highlights, is the fact that the city council focus is a diversion from taking a hard look at a real reform of the entire budget-making process. The pea here is under the mayoral shell, and the mayor has failed in exercising the proper due diligence over, not only the council's spending, but his own.
So the Sun muses that the mayor's approval of the army of lawyers for the council is an effort to cover his own ass: "New York City's government spending consists of blank checks with no balances. In other words, the Council slush fund scandal isn't just about a few crooked Council members or Council staffers or even crooked Council speakers. What it is about is a default by both the Council and the mayor of their fundamental duties to act as a check on the other branch of government. It's no wonder that the mayor says he sees nothing wrong with spending taxpayer money on high-priced outside lawyers to protect the individual City Council members and their staff from federal and local prosecutors trying to get to the bottom of the matter. If the truth does come outs, it isn't going to leave anyone involved looking like responsible custodians of public funds."
It's time that everyone here gets a thorough good government enema; and it's high time for our guardians of the Fourth Estate to practice a more thorough vigilance, and not miss the forest for the trees.