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The Salt Lake City Council welcomed Mayor-elect Jackie Biskupski to City Hall in a kind of BYOB salutation. In this case, however, it's BYOM bring your own money.
In an unofficial straw poll last week, the council voted 5-2 against a request by Biskupski for $25,000 to fund her transition team until Jan. 4, when she is sworn into office.
Five council members had endorsed Mayor Ralph Becker's run for a third term. One of them, Kyle LaMalfa, voted to fund Biskupski's request. Joining him was Council Chairman Luke Garrott, who did not endorse Becker.
"It's critical for Salt Lake City to have as sure-footed a transition team as possible," LaMalfa said Wednesday. "Financial insecurity for them could be a burden, and I want them to be at the top of their game."
By contrast, Councilman James Rogers said it was not a good idea. He voted against it.
"We haven't done it in the past. It isn't a normal thing to do," said the first-term councilman. "Why would we pay for two mayors at the same time?"
Salt Lake County has such a public funding mechanism for transitions, said former county Mayor Peter Corroon. It underwrites the mayor-elect's salary to the tune of one half the mayoral salary and provides other transition expenses from the November election to the January inauguration, he said Wednesday.
Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall, who also voted against funding Biskupski's transition team, said she isn't necessarily against a public funding policy. Depending on private donors to help defray transition costs, she said, runs counter to the council's discussions regarding campaign-finance reform.
However, she added, policy decisions must be made according to the City Council's normal process, rather than "springing it on us" in a budget amendment. "The time to talk about it isn't in the middle of a transition," she said.
The process, she explained, requires a detailed proposal and briefing to the council on various elements, including how proposed funding would be spent. The council then seeks feedback, she said, often in the form of a public hearing. It often gets another follow-up briefing before a vote to include the item in the city's $265 million budget.
Garrott doesn't agree and sees transition funding as a relatively small amount of money that would directly benefit Salt Lake City.
"It's a little uncomfortable for a mayor-elect coming in asking for money to do city work," he said. "And the transition team is doing the work of the city."
Further, Garrott said Biskupski's request of $25,000 is not enough. "Let's bring them on the job," he said.
According to Garrott, funding for the mayor- elect, future chief of staff, and one assistant from Nov. 17 to Jan. 3 should be $46,830.
Eight years ago, Becker did not ask for transition funding, said Chief of Staff David Everitt, although that option was among those considered. In the end, Everitt said, Becker's campaign paid for two transition staff positions.
Former Mayor Rocky Anderson said his transition was accomplished with volunteers.
"We had people come in and they didn't get paid," he said. "They worked without expectation of payment."
Matthew Rojas, a spokesman for Biskupski's transition team, said the mayor-elect would ask the City Council to reconsider. Without a public funding mechanism, he said, Biskupski may have to reach out to private donors to cover transition costs.