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It’s nothing personal

By Aaron Kinney
Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 at 3:53 pm in Aaron Kinney, San Carlos.

As the city of San Carlos has grappled in recent months with its dire budget problems, Councilman Matt Grocott has focused on finding ways to cut costs rather than put a half-cent sales tax measure on the ballot — a step that his council colleagues favor.

Matt Grocott

One cost-cutting step Grocott has zeroed in on is doing away with the city’s assistant city manager position in order to save roughly $200,000.

So we thought we’d ask Assistant City Manager Brian Moura what he thought of the idea. Has it made for any awkward exchanges in the hallway?

“I don’t think so,” said Moura earlier this month, adding that he doesn’t take Grocott’s suggestion personally.

“I think everybody understands after eight years of cuts that everything’s on the table.”

One person who doesn’t think eliminating Moura’s position would be a good idea is City Manager Mark Weiss, who argued against such a move at a City Council meeting on July 28.

Brian Moura

Weiss pointed out in his staff report that Moura is a multi-tasking wizard who takes the lead on the city’s zoning, waste, recycling and telecommunications issues and also spearheads its “green” programs.

If Moura disappeared, the city would likely have to hire more than one person to handle his duties, he explained.

“Many cities have positions dedicated to any one of those positions,” Weiss told the Insider.

“We still need someone to take calls like this,” Weiss added, noting that Moura also serves as the city’s public information officer.

And only half of Moura’s salary comes from the general fund, so getting rid of his position would save the city about $100,000 in general funding, not $200,000, Weiss pointed out.

At any rate, it would apear that Grocott has shifted his attention away from Moura’s office chair. The councilman asked several questions following Weiss’ July 28 presentation, but none of them pertained to the assistant city manager.

“I’m of the mind that that particular issue has been put on the back burner,” Weiss said.

Also on the back burner? The half-cent sales tax measure, which Grocott scuttled at the meeting. In order to pursue the measure this year, the council needed to vote unanimously to declare a fiscal emergency.

Grocott was the only member of the five-person council to vote against the declaration.

As a result, the council will have to wait until 2009 to put the sales tax issue to the voters, meaning there will be substantial cuts in the coming fiscal year to city services, which have already been cut to the bone.

The city is also looking at raising fees for certain city services and facilities used by the public.

But maybe Grocott’s right and his council colleagues are wrong. This is a man, after all, who had the wisdom earlier this year to proclaim that global warming is a “total lie.”

“I am not buying the science,” Grocott said May 12 during a discussion about whether to establish goals to reduce the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

When your City Council is yoked to a layman who is nonetheless smarter than the international scientific community, it’s a safe bet that things will turn out well.

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