This year’s budget exercise was difficult, not for the faint of heart or those unwilling to address the reversal of fortune we are now experiencing as a community. There has been a change of community order that few anticipated.
I often refer to my son, Walter, a recovering schizophrenic hospitalized in Maryland, and how he has inspired my long-standing advocacy and public service. Last year during a hospital visit that included a hair cut and luncheon, I was struck by how dependent Walter was on strangers. He was thrilled by simple acts of kindness-those daily acts that get done silently by many. The message was obvious that day and remains crystal clear today: The Walters of the world depend on both our compassion and our wisdom.
I am pleased the Council, this year again, met this test by prioritizing education, public safety and the needs of the vulnerable and frail amongst us. I stayed focused on the little people and those who assist them. I walk away from this budget feeling good about many of the HHS items we added back in the budget, ones that I championed-reducing contracts by 5% not 7%; restoring funds to residential treatment providers and programs that address the needs of the developmentally disabled; and providing dollars to the suicide hotline. I also want to acknowledge both the HHS Chair, Councilmember Leventhal and Councilmember Navarro for strongly advocating with me for increased funding for Montgomery Cares, the important patient navigator program, and the restoration of the Community Vision program. These choices reflect the Council’s generosity of spirit and commitment to our residents. Thank you, Madam President, for helping to lead the way.
I must also acknowledge the early and hard choices made in the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee by myself, Council Vice President Ervin and Councilmember Navarro. After this year, I don’t believe anyone could ever describe this committee without using adjectives like hard-working and resolute.
Having worked in the front lines as a social worker, I am aware of how much sacrifice we are asking of our teachers, our police personnel, our firefighters and our librarians. I am grateful for your quiet contributions made each and every day. Your willingness to participate in the final budget will be remembered and appreciated by us all, as we strive to balance needs with dollars.
It is necessary here to underscore the significant contributions made by both my wonderful office staff—Team Trachtenberg—and the entire Council staff. Our difficult work is manageable because of your extraordinary support and dedicated service.
In closing, I am also very mindful of what must now be done beyond the passage of the FY11 budget. The Council has an obligation to the general public but even to those who serve on this Council in the future. We must seize this unprecedented moment and exercise bold leadership. We will need to define a sustainable fiscal plan-one that includes an improved reserve policy; one that addresses promptly the compensation and benefits that we cannot afford down the road; one that requires consolidation and restructuring in the short-term not the long-term; and one that reflects the priorities of those that we do serve in our elected capacity.
This will be no easy accomplishment but we have no other choice. Our responsibility is to address this fiscal crisis with a firm hand, an open mind, and a generous heart. I am confident that this Council will rise to this challenge and I will do whatever I must as Chair of the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee to make sure our public obligation is satisfied.