Republican Mayor Erin Stewart has called a third Council meeting in three weeks to consider her proposal to borrow $115 million to push city debt into the future. Stewart called the meeting for Thursday, January 25, 2017, one day after the regular Council meeting on January 24th.
Many are calling Stewart’s tactics to pressure City Council Democrats into a quick approval of her plan heavy-handed. Stewart has repeatedly issued warrants for the Council to vote on her debt plan, rebuffing Democratic Council members’ calls for action to be delayed in order to consider options other than her $115 million plan.
While Democratic Council members say that the city has time for full consideration of its options, Stewart’s opponent in the 2017 Mayoral election, Merrill Gay, commented on Facebook on January 10th that, “For the 3rd time in three years, Mayor Stewart is proposing to refinance the city’s debt. Each time, it has been for one purpose, to get her through the next budget without a tax increase or major cuts.”
“What the mayor has done is the equivalent of paying the MasterCard with the Visa,” Gay commented. “When you can’t pay the debt you owe, the answer is not to borrow more money,” adding that Stewart, “borrows the money from our kids to spend it now.”
Stewart has come under intense criticism for having already pushed millions of dollars of debt into the future, to artificially lower costs during her administration, at the expense of higher debt payments for city taxpayers into the future.
In the 2017 election campaign, Gay, had highlighted concerns about the effect of Stewart’s refinancing policies on the city’s future. His criticism appeared to be confirmed by John Healey, Stewart’s former Chief of Staff and a current Managing Director for the city’s debt underwriter, Mesirow Financial. In a presentation before the City Council on December 11, 2017, Healey admitted that, “A lot of what was said over the course of the campaign, as far as, you know, the city’s restructuring and the debt that, the debt spikes that are out there – that was absolutely true.”
The special City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 25, 2017, at 6:30pm at City Hall.
Editor’s Note (3/31/2018): The article was corrected to note that Mesirow Financial is the city’s debt underwriter.