When City Council voted 4-1 yesterday to approve a funding plan to pay for computer upgrades at the Bureau of Development Services, Commissioner Amanda Fritz was the lone "no" vote. No surprise there—it's a position she's found herself in before, but the plan and its back story combine for a more interesting tale.
The computer upgrading plan—to borrow $6.6 million secured by the city's general fund—comes at a time when BDS continues to suffer from the economic downturn. In 2009, BDS slashed its staff in half in response to rapidly diminishing reserves. Fritz, before voting "no" on Wednesday, said she was uncomfortable with a financing plan premised on the idea of an imminent BDS comeback. "I do not believe now is the right time," she told her colleagues.
The city's debt managers believe otherwise. "The anticipated debt repayment schedule is dependent upon projected increases in BDS revenues and reserves over the next two years as the economy recovers," the city's debt managers write in their report supporting the borrowing.
The just-as-interesting back story here is that oversight of BDS recently changed hands. Last week, Mayor Sam Adams reassigned BDS to Commissioner Dan Saltzman's portfolio from Commissioner Randy Leonard's.
Leonard, who was in charge of BDS when the downturn hit, argued now was exactly the time to pay for a new computerized permit tracking system at the bureau. He said it was better to institute a more efficient computer system when staffing levels were low because otherwise the new system would displace more workers.
Saltzman, who recently pushed a new initiative to better monitor technology upgrades in the city, now finds himself in charge of BDS's $6.6 million permit system.