Members of the City Council — Council President Jackie Clarkson, James Carter, whose district includes the French Quarter and Cynthia Hedge-Morrel, head of the council’s budget committee — met yesterday with Mayor Nagin to discuss a compromise and avoid a legal showdown regarding the city’s budget. A source inside in the council says trust is a large issue concerning a compromise with Nagin. City council members felt they had previously negotiated with the mayor in earnestness, only to have him come back two weeks later with more cuts.


On Monday, Nagin held a press conference announcing he would make further cuts to the budget, including cutting enhanced sanitation services in the French Quarter, in order to avoid a $7.5 budget shortfall. Nagin remarked that he was more willing to make budget cuts than the council because he was term-limited unlike many council members who would be seeking re-election.


Council members reacted angrily to Nagin’s announcement, saying he never contacted them about his press conference and that they had already negotiated and compromised with the mayor in order to pass a budget on January 12.


“The facts speaks for themselves, if you look at the ordinances and the amendments to the ordinances,” says Councilwoman Shelley Midura. “We had a budget amendment that would have put the cuts (with some exceptions including public safety, sanitation and recreation) at five-and-a-half percent. He came in and made an amendment to the amendment, by request, that would have brought it down, I think, to two-and-a-half percent. What we eventually voted on was three percent. We’ve always been the ones that wanted to cut.”


As of yesterday before the meeting, it appeared the City Council would send a letter to Mayor Nagin informing him unless he complies with the council’s budget, the council would go into a closed-door, executive session in order to discuss how to legally force the mayor to follow the council’s budget.  The council is required to send the mayor a letter of demand like this before they can go into executive session.


After the meeting with Nagin, a spokesperson for Council President Jackie Clarkson reports Clarkson is hoping for a compromise with the mayor, but is still in favor of using litigation if necessary.


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