Separate budgets not route to compromise
The Town of Berlin’s tale of two budgets and the conflict between the two should never have happened, and wouldn’t have if the mayor and council had been working on the same spreadsheet from the beginning.
But no, Mayor Zack Tyndall dropped his version on the council as a fait accompli, and the council, feeling like it just took a thumb in the eye, replied by taking next year’s financial package in a different direction.
Regardless of Tyndall’s detailed justification for vetoing the council plan, he should have drawn the council closer to the campfire at the outset, as he mapped out his plan for the year. If he had, he might have avoided some of the disagreement over how Berlin’s limited financial resources should be directed.
Although Tyndall is the CEO of the town, the council is the board of directors. In that regard, the mayor is not just answerable to the residents, he also answers to the board in many respects.
That can be a difficult position, which, at times, requires a little fence straddling. On the one hand, Tyndall’s political aspirations, which include the possibility that he’ll run for Worcester County Commissioner in the next election, require that he keep the promises he made as a mayoral candidate.
At the same time, however, he has to recognize the need to maintain the backing of a council majority to get things done. Otherwise, he and the council will exchange more punches than ideas, with the two sides’ ability to find compromises suffering as a result.
Both budgets contain good ideas from the political and financial perspectives, and some that might be less so. That slightest of bumps in pay for town employees is one worth keeping, as is the continued pursuit of the long-promised community center.
Surely, there’s room for compromise in this package to allow these things to happen. Deciding how that might be accomplished will require more give and take, and less one side telling the other what it’s going to do.