In a surprise pronouncement during taping of this week's Counterpoint talk show on CAT TV Channel 3, local public relations guru and radio talk show host Mark Farnen branded city manager Bill Watkins' proposed cuts to the Paquin Towers recreational program "cruel and unusually harsh."
The proposed Paquin cuts have generated a storm of controversy among local disability advocates, who have taken to blogs, listservs, and media events to make the point that whacking the program is short-sighted and unnecessary.
Farnen -- who often lobbies the city council on behalf of business interests -- reiterated his comments after the program, hosted by Columbia city councilman Karl Skala. Noting that the $88,000.00 proposed cut isn't a large part of the city's budget, Farnen said "the people who use that program are among our city's most vulnerable. I just don't see how the cuts can be justified. They seem very harsh to me."
Tying the Paquin cuts to a proposed increase in the city council's discretionary fund -- its annual "allowance" -- Columbia Tribune publisher Hank Waters on Monday articulated an idea that Skala said troubled him -- the pitting of volunteer council members against vulnerable citizens.
"I added up the $12,000.00 in proposed cuts from the Lake of the Woods pool and the $88,000.00 in proposed cuts from Paquin Towers and whaddya know -- it comes to $100,000.00 -- the exact amount Mr. Watkins wants added to our council discretionary fund," Skala said at the show's taping. "Bill finds money for all kinds of things under all kinds of rocks, like $2 million from the water and light reserve fund to pay for shovel-ready land," he said. "I think we need to turn over a few more rocks before we make decisions like cutting the program at Paquin."
Counterpoint airs on CAT TV, Channel 3, M-W-F at 7:30 pm.
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