Every year, as the City Council goes about its business adopting a budget that it largely had no control over creating, it also repeats a widely observed parallel ritual.
It decides how it will dole out tens of millions of dollars in discretionary funding — or what some refer to derisively as pork.
The Council made public a list of the groups and projects that it planned to fund last Thursday, before it voted to adopt a $68.5 billion budget.
Though it amounts to less than one percent of the budget, the distribution of discretionary funds is among the only ways the Council has an influence on funding priorities for the city.
While some good government groups argue that such discretionary funding is ripe for corruption, other organizations that analyze the budget disagree.
“Pork is not necessarily bad,” said James Parrott, of the independent Fiscal Policy Institute. “Community services do get served.”
There are two major types of discretionary funding — expense and capital.
The City Council approved $50 million in expense funding for the fiscal year 2013 budget despite numerous scandals surrounding the cash the members get to dole out to nonprofits and organizations in their districts.
The money went to sports programs, theaters, cultural events, historical societies and much more.
Councilman Dan Garodnick, who ranked 42nd of all Council members in discretionary funding this year, is calling for increased disclosure despite recent changes to increase transparency.
Garodnick’s office is making public all of the letters he received from community groups asking for Council cash as well as all the meetings he had with lobbyists and others looking for cash.
Do you want to take a closer look at how much your council member received in discretionary funding? We’ve put together two handy spreadsheets and made them available through Google Drive that summarize both expense and capital funding for years 2009 to 2013.
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