Hammond councilman, mayor trade barbs over budget cut

2012-10-22T23:30:00Z Hammond councilman, mayor trade barbs over budget cutChelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | A decision to cut an administrative assistant position in the Hammond City Council office led to heated dialogue Monday between Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and City Councilman Bob Markovich.

The City Council voted, 5-3, to remove the $44,073 position from the 2013 budget after the current administrative assistant, Linda Clapp, announced her retirement effective at the beginning of next year. The cut leaves one support position in the City Council office.

Markovich, D-at large, called the removal of the position “a total blindside” and argued the cut jeopardized city business because one secretary would service nine council members.

“Don't take it out on us because all you're doing is screwing the taxpayers,” Markovich said. “You're screwing 80,000 people, excuse my language."

Contending he was following the same rationale, Markovich asked his colleagues to approve cutting management positions from the Street Department.

McDermott sharply criticized the suggestion, saying Markovich was “acting like a spoiled brat." McDermott said the Street Department has cut close to 50 percent of its manpower since he's been mayor.

“You want to compare a small, little office to the Street Department. ... There is no correlation whatsoever, Councilman Markovich,” McDermott said. “You are upset one position is cut. This administration has nothing to do with it. You want to punish safety and the citizens of Hammond. You are being preposterous. It is embarrassing what is going on here. Act like a grown up.”

City Councilman Mark Kalwinski, D-1st, led the charge for cutting the position, assuring council members money is available to pay for a temporary worker if needed.

“We're asking the entire city to cut the budget, usually through attrition where they aren't firing anybody,” Kalwinski said. “What I am suggesting is the council fall in line with the rest of the city. Instead of talking the talk, let's walk the talk.”

City Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, contended one person couldn't handle the workload of the office.

“It is ridiculous, unheard of and it is just a shame to even try to eliminate a position and put all that work on one person. It is just totally unfair,” Higgs said.

After cutting the position, council members passed the 2013 budget by a 6-2 vote with City Councilman Al Salinas, D-2nd, absent. Council members also approved salaries for next year, giving 1 percent raises to city employees and adjusting the raise for city firefighters from a flat $250 to 1 percent.

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