IF COMMISSIONER AMANDA FRITZ played city hall politics just a little bit differently—a horse trade here, a side deal there—the two-term city commissioner could absolutely crush this year's budget negotiations. But even without casting her principled political persona aside, she's still poised to do pretty well.
Because this year, Fritz has something Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick desperately want. And the mayor—with room to maneuver on the margins of a budget draft that's left big-ticket questions all but settled—is in a position to give Fritz some of the things she's indicated she desperately wants.
As it stands now, Fritz is the swing vote on a procedural question dogging a major policy piece put forward by Hales and Novick: their plan to charge road users in the city either $8 or $12 a month to fund maintenance and safety projects.
Novick and Hales both want the city council to pass the fee without asking voters' permission first. Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish, on the other hand, think that's a foolish idea in light of voter backlash over past fights like fluoride and what to do about the city's water and sewer bills.
Fritz, one way or the other, will break that tie. Which has been something of a cue for low-grade budget politics.
In case it maybe nudges Fritz into his camp, sources say, Novick has pointedly decided to back something at the top of her wish list: full funding, finally, for enforcement of the city's three-year-old tree code.
It's also been whispered he's made that case to Hales—who's been skeptical of the program and held back several thousand dollars when he issued his budget draft.
Less clear is whether Hales will go for it. He's still ambivalent—and sources say a decision likely won't depend on the street fee. Hales learned last year that Fritz doesn't politick like the rest of her colleagues—initially voting "no" on last year's budget, in protest over lost sex-trafficking money, despite getting mostly everything else she asked for. (To pay for the change, she wants to take money earmarked for a new "equity" specialist in the police bureau, requiring the cops to pay for that position on their own.)
But she said the support marked a "principled stance" on her colleagues' part, and wasn't to ensure a favorable vote on the street fee.
"I'm waiting for the hearing to see what's proposed and what people say about it," she says. "It's not true I traded a vote for this."
Novick also told me, flat out, there wasn't a deal in place—because everyone knows Fritz doesn't make them.
But he had an interesting answer when asked a related question: Whether he'd still back her on the tree code funding merely in the interests of keeping good relations with a colleague, who might be able to help him.
"My relationship with all my fellow commissioners is very important to me," he says. "If there's something vitally important to one of them, that's something worth considering."