Christenson Defends Budget From Council Critics

Conservative councilors raised concerns about the city's long-term cash reserves and the growth of government, but the Mayor said the plan is viable and part of a long-term strategy of "pushing Malden forward."

Correction: Councilor Kinnon said the school budget, not the total city budget, increased by 11%. We regret the error.

The city council adopted Mayor Gary Christenson's proposed , though a vocal minority on the council raised questions about the city's long-term financial standing.

The two-hour long budget discussion was driven by conservative councilors Neil Kinnon and David D'Arcangelo, who proposed a total of ten amendments to the budget, including a reduction of the proposed recreation director's salary, teen center budget, the mayor's office and to cut 5% of all new spending out of the budget.

Both expressed concern that city government had historically grown year after year, a trend they encouraged their colleagues to reverse.

Kinnon called the growth of the school district budget this year the “city's largest” at 11.6 percent, though Christenson – with city controller Charles Ranaghan at his side - later countered that the figure was closer to about 5 percent.

Both agreed the vast majority of the growth was related to school spending, around 80 percent.

Kinnon said a recent management report audit of the city's finances revealed Malden's cash reserves were “probably somewhere around 60 percent of the state average,” and said the report “implored (the council) to put money aside each and every year” for long-term financial stability.

“We've really set nothing aside, but we need to start some year,” he said. “We can't be like the federal government and just keep kicking it down the street.”

Christenson, speaking from the floor podium, emphasized that the budget presented imposed no new taxes on residents and did not dip into the city's reserve funds.

“Yet, it accomplishes a lot of goals that will move our city forward,” he said. “...Keep your eyes on the prize...keep your eyes on the big picture and (whether) this is what is going to lead our city into the future.”

The discussions turned tense at certain points, with Christenson at one point commenting he had not seen Kinnon at any of the city's teen nights, where he said he worked closely with kids in desperate need for a teen center.

“When the mayor was in elementary school, I was teaching kids in the YMCA. When the mayor was entering high school, and through high school, I as the coach of the swim team.” Kinnon said, continuing to list a number of ties to Malden's teenage community.

“I'm not questioning (Christenson's) integrity or his commitment to the community – I am saying he has a different vision. And mine is a fiscally prudent vision.”

“This wasn't a growth year for the school department,” Christenson said. “When you add up everything they needed to keep them functioning from where they were in fiscal year 2012, they cut $1.5, $1.6 million dollars. I know the cuts and I've heard from the people impacted by the cuts – they're not easy but they did them."

Around 37 people were laid off from the school district this year, with most being rehired into other positions in the district

Six staff members in the district were completely laid off employment with the district.

Kinnon called Christenson's suggestion that the school district endured budget cuts this year “simply irresponsible.”

“This is a common problem with people in government,” he said. “When the school department has a $50 million budget and (goes to a) $56 million budget – but wanted $57, $58 milion – (that's) not a cut. Their budget increased by 11.2 percent.

“If I went to my boss and asked for a 10 percent raise but got a 5 percent raise...I didn't get a cut in pay. I got a pretty darn good increase.”

Other councilors disagreed.

“I just want to remind us we just had an election in November, with a new administration that came in with an overwhelming amount of support from Malden residents that promised to move our city forward,” councilor Neal Anderson said.

“We have all witnessed in the last six months the tireless effort our mayor has put out...I believe this, his first budget, has attempted to live up to the promises of his campaign.

“We should not be looking to scale things, but improve our city,” he concluded. “And the budget speaks to that.”

Councilors Jim Nestor, Kinnon and D'Arcangelo voted against the budget, with the rest of the council voting in approval.

To review the 2013 budget, visit the city's budget site

John Q June 27, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Mr Nestor, Do you do everything Mr Phelps tells you to do?
AnnieOMalden June 27, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I hope a lot of people saw that display from Kinnon towards the Mayor. And he was holding back because he was directing it towards a Mayor. Imagine how he would be if Mayor Christenson was just a regular person? I can as I have witnessed such rude behavior for so many years. Fact of the matter is when Kinnon was involved with the kids YEARS AGO (maybe 25-30?) they were a whole different type of kid. His own teens are from a privileged family who have every need tended to. His kids grew up going to the family compound on a lake in NH and have a mom who didn't have to work outside the home until recently (guess where she works?). To compare the kids the Mayor has worked with and the Ward 6 councilor's kids is like apples and oranges. The charter school wouldn't allow most of the neediest kids in the door or would make sure they were gone soon because of the refusal of the school to service these kids. There is no lottery for these kids or wait list. The Teen Center is a vital and necessary place for the future citizens of the world to go to escape and enjoy some down time. I applaud the Mayor for fighting for this venue for our city. Sometimes the budget isn't all about saving a buck but taking care of the needs of ALL the citizens. Now, let's get busy and get a fire station for our east side!
robert wilson June 27, 2012 at 04:59 PM
You're right Michael, my stones are hurting too much nows it is, we need GOOD retail like you said.
Jack June 27, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Mr Kinnon and Nestor are feeble remnants of the previous administration. They shoulde never be elected to anything again. I don't understand Mr D'Arcangelo's thinking either and I hope he hasnn't been lured in by the other two. I feel the Mayor is making an effort to rebuild this city and all you have to do is take a walk through Malden Square. He has removed benches and overgrowth and increased or fixed lighting to make it a safer place. He has attempted to address the parking issues and it is obvious that he cares. He has done more in six monthe than the previous guy did in sixteen years. Good for you Mr. Mayor don't pay attention to the cry babies. I love the quote that when the Mayor was in elemenatry school I was teaching kids at the YMCA. Imagine years later your entire family and all your friends now have jobs helping kids. Isn't that wonderful Neil. Did you speak to the kids like you speak to adults? Did you teach them to be rude?
Michael Victor June 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Guess I must have been watching a different station. The only cut he or anybody advocated on the Teen Center was leasing out space and instead use space in the High School that everyone who is honest knows is way to big for the current student population. Seems like a smart way to start if you ask me. And Schools getting 11% increase? Questioning that and suggesting it should be lower is bad how? Its that kind of spending that got us into trouble the last time and got us the blue bags. Hey Annie O didn't you fight the blue bags? You want them to be three dollars? Didn't the Mayor promise one free one? Seems like that promise isn't going to happen now. I got a 3.5 percent increase this year on my job and I can tell you I am thrilled. Help me how again how is questioning this kind of spending a problem. More of the Councilors should be getting on board.
Gene Pinkham June 27, 2012 at 06:37 PM
What's DD's beef with Joe Levine?
Gene Pinkham June 27, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Maybe we wouldn't need a Teen Center if the YMCA didn't charge Country Club membership fees. As I recall, the city put up a considerable sum to build it. A little more than necessary, thanks to a certain ex-councilor-at-large.
M June 27, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Exactly Gene! If you have money, you can go to the YMCA. If you don't have money, you qualify for "scholarship" and "financial assistance". If you are working to survive and pay your bills, you cannot go to the YMCA.
david mokal June 27, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I am for the teen center 100% well needed.
Michael Victor June 27, 2012 at 09:39 PM
I think the City should buy a building with a gym and pool, and classrooms so they can have a full blown teen center from 2:30 to 9:00 and on weekends. At prevailing wage how much will that cost. Oh wait that sounds familiar I think we already have some of those buildings and they are mostly empty during those hours most of the year. Hmmmm. Yes and we should make it FREE for all the kids. And when the city is done no doubt the cost to the city budget and taxpayers will be a bargain. Its for the kids so no amount is too much.
DannyBoy June 27, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Right on, Michael. Why couldn't Christenson's exploratory team find a way to work with MHS administration and staff to set up a teen center in the existing buildings housing MHS? Instead of of doing that, they find and lease another location (which happens to be across the street from MHS)! What a waste of taxpayer money!
Abel June 27, 2012 at 10:48 PM
How about the bright ,shiny and new building the charter school just built. Seems to have everything needed for a teen center. I bet they wouldn't even entertain the idea.
AnnieOMalden June 27, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Abel & Michael: Funny you should mention that...when Kinnon was "selling" the parents at a board meeting about the new athletic facility (before a school being built) he mentioned a few times about a possible "partnership" in the offing. He hinted at the city was perhaps a possible "partner" in the deal. Since that hasn't happened I wonder if that's why the field across the street from the facility hasn't been constructed? This was of course before Howard decided not to run again. I can understand why the Mayor doesn't want to house the Teen Center in the high school-the kids have been there all day already and need a place to get away or have a change of pace. Or you don't want kids roaming the halls instead of where they should be. Not to mention having to pay the janitorial staff to open doors and shut off the lights! Don't worry, the stage is being set for the city to buy the Ruderman's building at a bargain rate in exchange for Combined Properties building 200+ units at the old Super Fitness site.
Michael Sullivan June 28, 2012 at 01:04 AM
In regard to the New teen center.....The Malden YMCA always had one but decided against it in their new facility...Why cant they step up during these tough fiscal times.....See Below....Some food for thought....Maybe we could hang this on the Wall. Northland College (NZ) Principal John Tapene has offered the following words from a judge who regularly deals with youth....."Always we hear the cry from teenagers' What can we do,where can we go?'.......My answer is, Go home,mow the lawn,wash the windows, learn to cook,build a raft,get a job,visit the sick,study your lessons,and after you've finished,read a book. Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in poverty or sick and lonely again." In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone. start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It's too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you !!! I rest my case.........
mhs82 June 28, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Great Point!!
Michael Victor June 28, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Looked online and the Y has a teen center. And your case is true. What else can we let the government do for us. Where does personal responsibility begin. Check out the price you think the New Teen Center run by our government is going to be less expensive? **NeW** Teen Center (Age 14-18yrs) Come and join our new teen center for fun or just to relax. The teen center will include the fourth floor, half gym, handball court and weight room. Tuesday 6:00pm - 9:00pm Thursday 6:00pm - 9:00pm Friday 6:00pm - 9:00pm Saturday 6:00pm - 8:00pm members: $10 Non-members: $55
AnnieOMalden June 28, 2012 at 03:00 PM
M6sullys: Are you kidding me? Don't tell me you and Sandy don't indulge your kids and cart them to every sport they ever desired (or you desired) to play. Your weekends are filled with play dates and activities for your kids. I'm not saying that is wrong, just don't act like you had your kids cleaning their rooms and making a raft instead. LOL
Don June 28, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Diane is going to be all over you on this one. In her opinion, you need to get drunk, eat 2 Big Macs and large fries. Get drunk again. Spend all your money from the "check" and then fall down. Wake up in the morning and do it all again.
Joe Gray July 01, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Fascinating that the very councilor, who encouraged increased city spending in years past is now complaining that the city has spent too much money in years past on outrageous projects. Like a certain ward 6 councilor pushing through new taxes to support increased bonding for various projects that never quite resulted in the return on investment that we were promised(restaurant tax, blue bag tax, etc). I hope I'm not the only one remembering this bizarre clouding of past budget battles at city hall. Oooh, let's bond the city some more to build another park and then cry we're spending too much. Gary is doing just fine. The system is what it is. Even with the school budget increase, they're still laying off teachers and cutting services.
DannyBoy July 01, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Joe Gray, don't forget the parking sticker initiative and the pit bull ordinance, all pushed by Kinnon and his acolytes. The guy has no qualms about levying new fees and taxes on Malden residents, and he claims to be a "conservative". What a hypocrite!
Michael Victor July 02, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Hey Joe the only Bizzare clouding is your memory. Once again you must be kidding Blue Bag Tax. Four Councilors fought that one and I will never forget that: Spadafora, Nestor, Christenson and Kinnon. And nobody fought that harder than your guy so at least get it straight.
Phe July 02, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Michael - I've been putting that idea forward for a while now. Growth depends on capital and capital depends on having something from which to get it in the first place. Using the tired but true Davis Square model time and again...
Phe July 02, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Oh, I don't know. When Curatone took office the first thing he did was head for the Arts Councils and the youth demographics. And he listened. And he courted independent businesses like the blazes. OTOH, the death of Cambridge's rent control helped Somerville a lot with an influx of artists and academics who found the red line location convenient and, at the time, the prices to be just right. Of course, we have the T and we have the prices - we just have no draw.
AnnieOMalden July 02, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Michael V: Really? What have they done since November? The other night Kinnon is now talking "one free barrel". The citizens voted to ELIMINATE the bag. It makes me laugh Kinnon is taking my suggestion for a possible compromise that I could live with "one free barrel". I can assure you, Kinnon did not work harder than Bob Miller and the MTFA. He may have given Bob a few hints on how to get this thing off the ground but he didn't lift a finger to send in troops or knock on doors. I believe he did send out a lit drop (printed at the charter school?) at the very end but he never even put a sign in his yard. Now Neil is an opportunist flip-flopper. He loves to take credit for the hard work of other people. You don't think he comes up with all this info and factoids on his own? Why do you think he's got so many friends and family on the payroll? Are you one of them? I'm beginning to think so...
Michael Victor July 02, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Whoa Annie. Just pointing out the truth as Joe is clearly misrepresenting the them and even you concede on that one. Not even you, I think, would have the nerve to say Kinnon was part of the Trash Tax fiasco. I was not talking about people off the City Council. As for flip flopping might not agree with the guy on some issues but he is pretty darn consistent and predictable. Whatever he can get for Ward Six he is all over it and is there a Ward that has gotten more in recent years? Can't say I agree with some of the things "High Rock" maybe but heck he is all about his neighborhood and making sure you are getting your share and from the neighborhood I am in a lot more than your share. Again I will trade. You at least have someone who can stand on their own two feet and is no rubber stamp for anyone.
Joe Gray July 02, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Good Afternoon Michael V. Since you seem to know more about what is happening in ward 6 than the residents, who live here, there's no getting through to you. Not going to re-litigate that strange blue bag fiasco in city hall. Everyone would need a scorecard to keep track of that reality show drama. It was a show. Must look glossy in here(ward 6) from the outside.
Joe Gray July 02, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Hi Michael. Annie may be a little rough on the message boards but her memory is great. Annie has a lot of nerve and so do I. Not accusing anyone of anything, but it sure is convenient that the city is put into a great deal of debt on the backs of these "taxes"(as you admit) for the benefit of ward 6. The circular logic folds back on your accusations and have no where else to go. The rest of the city pays heavily for ward 6 and you imply this is good? Oh well. No trade. Please move to ward 6, if you honestly believe it is so wonderful. I implore you to try and buy. We won't bite. We're really nice folk.
Michael Readon July 03, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Read in another paper quoting the ward 6 councillor that there were not too many responses from Malden high students about the teen center. Why is that? Were the kids encouraged or pushed to return the surveys? Was it on line or hard copy or both? Can these kids who need the center read and fill out a survey? Are the high school students' parents involved in the planning of the center? If so who are the parents involved? Do minority youngsters who have no role models in Malden's schools and almost nobody who looks like them have a say in the center that they will use? Will it be something like the senior center, only certain groups would use it?


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