Local Commentary

The Little City Weed

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Remember the city financial crisis of a couple of months ago?

 

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Remember the city financial crisis of a couple of months ago? The economic emergency so severe city council was not willing to leverage federal stimulus dollars or risk spending already-funded affordable housing monies on a signature initiative 10 years in the making? A situation so dire the city council would not even put pretend planning dollars into a CIP budget as a placeholder for future affordable housing projects? A vast fiscal tragedy of such enormous proportion we could not afford to move local elections to November so more people could vote, had to outsource planning to a volunteer board of long range planners rather than trust mere city staff, must completely retool our system of local government, renegotiate our method of funding local schools, and almost certainly we were in such disastrous circumstances we should sell the water system for whatever we could get and beg Arlington to accept our merger offer.

The mystery meat math geniuses who occasionally float their horrendously bloated political agenda through the city, pointed ham-fisted fingers at their political opponents, and angrily declared us “no longer financially viable.”

Yeah, well, never mind about all that financial emergency stuff. The political rubber has met the road, and the council elected on its budget trash talking has absolutely no intention of backing up its smack with real action.

Two things happened. First, city property tax revenues increased by almost five percent over projections because the general economy in our area has improved. Second, the state fully funded its commitment to education costs which were projected to be a local unfunded mandate. The city, as a result, is, if not cash flush exactly, at least has its usual walking around money.

In a blink, the council has abandoned its financial reforms. In less than a blink, actually. In a cowardly never-mind-forget-we-ever-said-anything political twitch.

Oh the largess. Fully fund the school superintendent school budget, plus throw in the school raises people demanded. No draconian cuts of city staff. In fact, give remaining city staff a raise. No real tax rate increase. Linear growth in overall budget. Fund the short term CIP planning budget. Increase the fund balance. Pay a consultant to fill out the paperwork to move local elections back to May.

The reformist talk about negotiating a budget split formula between city and schools? Gone. The good ideas about the schools and city sharing communications and IT resources? Not going anywhere. The clever concept of leveraging budget models and thoughtful citizen finance commissions? Never going to happen. The Snyder 100 Day Plan? The 13-Point Kaylin-Berry Agenda? The Baroukh Great Retreat Subcommittee Infrastructure Noise Machine? It was just so much talk. All of it. Never executed. Let us never speak of it again.

The political take away for our alarmist new council members is simple: It is not about you. The year-to-year budget processes are dominated by economic forces beyond your control.

Now, whom do I see about getting our city reputation back?

 


Michael Gardner is a quixotic citizen and founder of the Blueweeds community blog.