Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 9, 2017
DRESCHEL: Skelly places free city hall lunches on council’s plate
Free lunches are back on the political menu at city hall.
The hot button issue has been back-burnered since 2011 when The Spectator revealed the city spends about $33,000 a year on free sandwiches, pizza, cookies, and coffee and tea for councillors and senior staffers who meet over the lunch hour.
But this week Coun. Donna Skelly applied fresh grease to the question of whether the freebies are appropriate by asking if there’s a financial argument in favour of the practice.
Finance general manger Mike Zegarac responded that the free grub is provided to avoid interrupting committee meetings by breaking for lunch.
Skelly’s interest was triggered by a letter in The Spec which suggested that, given the city’s “budget crisis,” the lunch money should be directed to the Poverty Roundtable’s request for a $30,000 funding increase.
“I certainly wouldn’t want us to be accused to taking advantages of this when we’re talking about budget challenges,” Skelly said.
Coun. Brenda Johnson chimed in that councillors were previously told that free working lunches made sense because breaking for lunch leads to staff overtime costs.
“I’m all for let’s look at this again,” Johnson said, adding a review needs to include the impact on the tax levy if the freebies are stopped.
For his part, Mayor Fred Eisenberger says he’s willing to consider “reasonable alternatives” such as councillors offering to contribute money to offset the cost of the feed bags.
But Eisenberger says in the big picture it’s “really kind of nickel and diming.” People need sustenance to get through long, uninterrupted meetings, he says. (Continued: Hamilton Spectator)