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The balance of power 

In a budget process that was noticeably more congenial than the barb-slinging conflict endured in his rookie outing, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — who has been claiming recently that he “loves” the city’s council members — didn’t get everything he wanted. But the bottom line is that a projected $196 million shortfall was dealt with. The council approved a balanced budget last week.

Kilpatrick’s proposed budget included 193 layoffs. City Council President Maryann Mahaffey says council saved 80 jobs by finding other cuts. Among items red-lined was Kilpatrick’s request to fund both a new tourism department and an administrative hearings department. The latter, which would enforce environmental codes and administer fines to violators, could yet see life, the council indicated.

The mayor also came up short regarding housing demolition funds. He requested $12 million — up $1.3 million from last year. The council came across with a mere $7 million. Mahaffey says council wanted to give more dollars to community groups to rehab properties. But Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel says the mayor should’ve lobbied harder. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t have a more clear and clarion call from the administration on the importance of those dollars,” says Cockrel.

On the win side, the mayor obtained support to establish a grants acquisition office staffed with MBAs who’ll do nothing but look for grant money, says mayoral spokesman Howard Hughey. The department will also monitor grants once they’re obtained to prevent the city from having to return funds that were mismanaged or not spent within mandatory time frames — a persistent and costly problem in the past.

Kilpatrick also got a new project management department that will study ways to streamline the city’s bloated bureaucracy. Cockrel says the department will start with the Public Lighting and Transportation departments, both of which “need all the attention they can get.”

And in a coup for City Auditor General Joe Harris and Cockrel, the council for the first time followed city law by allocating $240,000 for the Risk Management Council. The council — which is supposed to monitor and reduce city lawsuits and liability — met for the first time late last year. Since 1997, lawsuits on average have cost the city an eye-popping $62 million a year. (See “Slipping Up,” Metro Times, Aug. 21-27, 2002.)

Harris says the council can now operate at full speed. “We have people that appear to be committed,” he says. “This is the best thing that’s happened.”

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