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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WASILLA HAS ITS OWN BUDGET SAGA...






Turns out the Mat Su Assembly Hounds aren't the only ones throwing money around and stuffing their own special interest trunk while crafting a budget.
We are pleased to pass on the following account provided to us by a CIty of Wasilla Watcher.
Get a cold one and enjoy the ride. And try to remember. We all live here.




The Wasilla City Council Budget Menu

Is Bloated and Retaining Water
. . .but lacks pizza and cake thanks to Council Member Dianne Woodruff who noted that if the people have to skip dinner to be at City Council meetings, the Council Members shouldn’t be eating dinner in front of them on the peoples’ dime. So, Woodruff moved to delete from the budget the money for pizza and cake for the Council. It passed unanimously.

In a similar vein, Council Member Woodruff proposed deleting over $2,000 for bottled water. She pointed out that City Hall is on City Water, and if City Water is good enough to charge city residents over $40/month (minimum) to drink it, why shouldn’t the City Council and employees drink it, too? After bragging about the City’s prize-winning water, the Council rejected Woodruff’s amendment and decided to retain the $2,000+ for bottled water. Voting to retain water were Council Members Steve Lovell and Clark Buswell.

Council Member Colleen Sullivan-Leonard wanted the rest of the Council to share in an attack on Troy (Tankersley, Finance Director) by inflating the estimate of sales tax revenue into an Ultra-rich Chocolate Trojan Horse; it would have “given” the Council more money to spend. But the chocolate horse was too high in fat, and Wall, Buswell, Woodruff and Lovell defeated Sullivan-Leonard’s attack on the budget of Troy, who had done an excellent job of presenting a defense.

Mr. Clark Buswell, who looks to the Mayor before casting his vote, told the Council that everyone should just order everything on the budget menu that the Mayor was ordering.

Council Member Leone Harris’ drank Online Absen Tea during 3 of the last 5 City Council meetings. When she was present, she tried to get the Council to take dessert off the budget menu by dramatically reducing department budgets for staff overtime. After attempting to take the overtime dessert off the menu of many departments, the other Council Members and the public started to realize that Harris was right, and that skipping dessert is generally quite do-able for people who manage well, so voted for all or part of many of her proposed reductions of departmental overtime dessert.

The City Business Plan: Sell Winners and Keep Losers

The City Council bought Meta Rose Square because it was on prime real estate at the center of the City, thinking that it might be a good building for a new library. When the building was determined not to be of suitable size or structure for a library, some Council Members hoped that income from Meta Rose Square could help fund a new library. According to the FY14 budget, Meta Rose Square is making money for the City: about $100,000 a year. But heaven forbid that the City take any of the burden off its taxpaying residents and develop an additional source of revenue besides sales tax! So, a couple members of the City Council are pushing the Mayor to get rid of this money-maker ASAP.

Discussion of the City budget had begun with an hour-long presentation by the Director for Recreational and Cultural Services, Mr. John Combs. All who heard this presentation by the Champion of Non-stop Talkers were left hoping that he made better use of the peoples’ dime than he did of the peoples’ time, however, given that the Menard Sports Center is losing close to $1 million a year under his management, that seems unlikely. It also seems unlikely that this millstone will be removed any time soon from around the necks of Wasilla’s taxpayers. It may be a big loser, but it’s a real GEM of a money-loser and we're not going to let anyone have it!

Running the City like a Featherbedding Business

The glowing report Mr. Combs gave the Council about his most recent hire at the Menard Sports Center, Ms. Joan Klapperich, left many wondering why the City needed him on the payroll, too, so he was asked to bring back to the Council in 90 days a plan for achieving certain objectives. Apparently, the Mayor has never defined any goals and objectives for Mr. Combs, nor requested any work plans from him: that would be something only a good business manager would do.
Mayor Rupright was asked by Council Member Colleen Sullivan-Leonard why Bert Cottle, Deputy Administrator, was the City’s Designated Meeting Attender, suggesting that this was a part of the Mayor’s job. The Mayor’s answer to this question didn’t erase the widely held perception that the main purpose for Mr. Cottle’s attendance at so many meetings is to promote Mr. Cottle’s ambition to be Mr. Rupright’s successor. How this benefits the City remains obscure, as does whatever else Mr. Cottle keeps himself busy doing on the taxpayer's dollar.

Council Members Brandon Wall and Dianne Woodruff asked Mr. Cottle what his Administrative Assistant did all day while he was away from City Hall at meetings. Mr. Cottle answered by reporting the number of times this employee answered the phone and interacted with the public. This observer was amazed that the employee was able to stretch out so little work to fill 40 hrs a week, but was not surprised that Council Member Buswell was impressed with how busy she was, because the employee is a very nice person. (Of course, none of this was personal, all the City Council Members said.) Could it be that Mr. Cottle doesn't know what the one person he supervises actually does?

Council Members Wall & Woodruff continued to point out that there just wasn’t enough work to justify so many full-time Administrative Assistants upstairs at City Hall, so proposed amending the budget to reduce funding for staff. Suggesting that the City should be run like a business, Council Members Lovell and Buswell insisted that all staff must be kept at 40 hrs/wk just in case there is something for them all to do some day. Voting to keep the City in the Featherbedding Business was Council Members Buswell, Lovell, Harris and Sullivan-Leonard. No self-respecting Union Rep would ever make the pathetic arguments in support of Featherbedding that Council Members Buswell and Lovell made.

The Chamber and Seniors

The fastest growing sector of the Wasilla economy is senior citizens and services to seniors, adding millions annually to the City’s economy, but the funding request of Wasilla Area Seniors, Inc. for matching funds for grants and to install energy-efficient lighting was defeated 5 to 1, in part, Council Members said, because of the cost of Featherbedding.

(Lecturing the longest-lived members of our community about sustainability, the Council did, however, vote to approve a one-time appropriation to the seniors in this fiscal year out of the City’s fund balance.)

Naturally, the cost of Featherbedding didn’t interfere with the Council approving $10,000 tax dollars for the Chamber of Commerce, which didn’t persuade Three Bears to locate in the City, costing the city mega-bucks in lost sales tax revenue. The Council likes to support those who are not paying any taxes. No one from the Chamber ever testified during the budget hearings as to what the Chamber does for the City or would do with this ten grand, so this observer is wondering if this is one of those FOMs (Friends Of Mayor) thingees.


Businesses pay no taxes to the City (they just turn over to the City the sales tax they collect from customers), but senior residents do pay taxes to the City: another reason why the senior service sector of the economy doesn't deserve any support from the Council, apparently. The Council Members expressed so much love for the Seniors, it is frightening to think what they would have done had they not loved seniors so dearly.

Henny Penny, Deficit Budgets and that Trojan Horse Again

Having failed to convince the rest of the Council to give her the Ultra-rich Chocolate Trojan Horse of inflated budget revenue estimates to attack Troy, Council Member Sullivan-Leonard started to sing Henny Penny’s song, “The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling! This is a Deficit Budget! ” as her rallying cry against Troy. Council Member Harris responded to this cry, but the other Council Members were wisely unresponsive.

Troy’s defense was that the budget was balanced--as anyone who paid attention to his budget presentation could see--by spending down some of the City’s fund balances (savings). Proposing to spend some from the fund balances, according to Sullivan-Leonard, meant to her that Troy was proposing a deficit budget. Apparently, there's 2 definitions of a deficit budget: the one professionals use and Sullivan-Leonard's.

Since Sullivan-Leonard is on the record stating that all fund balances (savings) should be reduced to zero, it was unclear to this observer why she was upset about Troy balancing the budget by reducing some fund balances a bit. Could it be that because the Council wouldn’t let her have her Ultra-rich Chocolate Trojan Horse, she was determined to cast the budget as a disaster? Of course not! Why would anyone think that?

Could it be they thought that because they have observed Council Members feasting on sour grapes and, like Council Member Wall, they observed that a pencil was thrown down and eyes were rolled by someone opposite him in the cushy tilt-a-whirl seats?

The Invitation and the Dis

If you are invited to make a presentation to the Wasilla City Council, you might want to keep your coat on until after the agenda is approved, because you may be dissed (as in dis-invited and dismissed). MEA was invited to make a presentation at the last City Council meeting and then basically told by 4 Members of the Council that we don't want to hear from you, please go home. The City Council has listened to both sides of the debate on all sorts of issues, including Wishbone Hill/Usibelli Coal mining, and KGB and Parks Hwy upgrade projectls even when the greater part of those projects were outside the city limits. For as far back as anyone can remember--decades--Council Members have been able to invite an entity to give a presentation at a City Council Meeting, but when Council Member Woodruff invited MEA to come to the City Council and present their proposed routing for an 80-100 ft high transmission line to the Herning Substation near the heart of the City, oh, the uproar! Experience leads this observer to note that the degree of the passionate anger expressed by elected officials is directly proportional to the amount of politics involved (as opposed to facts, reason and considerations of the common good). In a shameful and embarrassing display of politics that left everyone wondering what the Council Members were afraid the Council and public might hear, MEA was dis-invited and dismissed, dropped from the agenda. Voting to keep MEA from spreading light on the issue were Council Members Buswell, Lovell, Sullivan-Leonard and Harris.


Not Ready to go to Press

The budget has yet to be voted on as a whole. So, if you think that there’s more changes that need to be made to the budget, come to the meeting on June 10th at 6pm, or send your comments to the City Clerk for distribution to the Members of the Council.




Wednesday, May 22, 2013

HOUND EDUCATION HOSTAGE


The assembly hound car fires up again to take another trip down the taxpayer money spending freeway tonight at 6pm and tomorrow night if needed.
And there seems to be a lot of "needs" pending in secret hound pockets and not so secret that its looking like tonight might not do it. Our own heads are hitting the desk with that thought.

We do know of the threat of one amendment that tumbled out when the car threw on the brakes quite suddenly at the end of last nights meeting.

Assembly spending hound Halter gave notice he plans to have an amendment tucked under his hound arm at tonight's budget deliberation meeting to cut the already adopted education funding. Uh huh the amendment passed already giving the school district the nominal 3% increase they have asked for that was proposed by both Keogh and Arvin and adopted. We recall Halter was the lone "no' vote.

Hound Halter said his proposed cut would whack 1% out of the measly 3% and bring it to 2%. Huge dollars when the district is stinging from another year of flat funding from the state.

We don't know why but we are pretty sure it has to do with something about putting more in the spending hound trunk for Halter's district for things like the $1.4M Talkeetna library. A project we support but not at the cost of education for kids in the whole borough. We wish spending hound Halter would show a little more leadership to advocate for the adequate funding for borough services that continue to climb in cost and projects even if that means a slight increase in the mill rate.

Is assembly hound Halter that afraid of the ceremonial mayors scepter veto pen that might threaten his $75,000 for portable bathrooms in Meadow Lakes or some other tucked in project? Or is he nursing some kind of a grudge against the district for a undisclosed sin? This is his second whack at the school budget.

The spending hounds are suppose to be delivered tonight the list of where they can find hiding $3M in past capital projects of unassigned funds from both the manager and the hired financial analyst sitting in the borough piggy bank.We are expecting all kinds of fun hearing the outcome of that tonight.

The borough manager is out of town on a scheduled approved vacation so the assistant manager and finance director will be fielding those question handballs  It's possible the hounds will be taking the borough attorney out for a good run trying to keep them in line of what can be loved around the financial checkerboard. 

We don't know if Mr. Wilson the hired budget guru will be here in person earning his $225.00 a hour fee. Perhaps he will be calling it in or he has submitted his homework via email. We hope the dog didn't eat it.

There is much to do on the budget. The assembly spending hounds have drug it through the streets of the public process like a favorite squeaky toy. Part of the squeak is the cost to the taxpayers of the process to deliberate the budget that has been adopted this year. You however can hear it for free as it is streamed by our community radio station at www.radiofreepalmer.org. starting at 6pm tonight.


Not too late to send the assembly spending hounds a note to let them know your priorities for the budget. While your at it let them know how you feel about holding education hostage for their sacred cows.
We'll be there until its done. However spending assembly hound Salmon has already given notice after tonight his attention span will have reached his limit. Besides, his wife is having a birthday and cold assembly pizza for dinner and sitting on a hard chair isn't what he has in mind for the evening.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

SPENDING HOUNDS PART 2





The running of the assembly spending hounds continues...

If you haven't read the post before this one you might want to start there then proceed below. If you did read part one and picked yourself off the floor and have been so patiently waiting for part 2 after much teeth gnashing here you go. 

After you might want to wander over in the side of the blog and read a page we are calling..QUESTIONS WE WOULD LIKE THE BOROUGH ASSEMBLY TO ANSWER. If we get any coherent answers (unlikely) from the assembly we will add them. The plan is to keep adding a dialog we SHOULD be having as a borough. 

So now...ta da ..Part 2 of the adventures so far of your borough assembly spending hounds with the borough checkbook and savings...


Assembly spending hound Arvin is still at the wheel with his hound foot firmly on the gas driving to his vision of a free market solution for the future which seems to include fewer borough employees and that less pesky public transparency.  He scoffs at the suggestion that replacing three temporary positions in the IT department with one full time employee will save money for the borough in training investments and costly turn over as those trained move on to higher paid and more secure private sector jobs through the revolving borough door.

After all a “temporary employee” surely provides a more controllable expendable workforce right?

Spending hound Arvin does allow a stop to add a new position for a full time emergency management coordinator. Does he think anyone can be found to handle even a small portion of the emergencies this assembly is creating? Or is the attraction that part of the job has to do with timber?  He also allows the hound car to roll slowly so the spending hounds can move a “financial analyst” position under management administration.

Is it possible with this assembly anyone can really work under management and not through some assembly members?


The ceremonial mayor hound has found his way out of the manure field and is now chasing the spending assembly hound car but he keeps spinning his own wheels on the loose gravel on the side of the road and losing track of the car. He has annoyed some of the spending hounds by letting his favorite hounds run amuck and not stay on the hunt. He also has his eye on a brand new shiny Pt. Mackenzie town site and like the joker in the jack in the box; he pops up and down now and again to make sure the assembly spending hounds are sprinkling taxpayer cash along the unimproved road for its development. 

Assembly spending hound Colligan who now glows red with a computer screen tan is leaning further and further out of the assembly spending car. He is jumping in and out of the car asking to throw the borough spending ball again and again. He is sure he is right around the corner from a spending signal. He seems to forget much of the time where it ended up the last time it was thrown. He is just sure if they keep building his empire doghouse in the technology yard they will all be able to get out of the car and run through a field of daisies. The IT department director is becoming his best friend. His spending hound eyes have changed to dollar signs thinking of how if the bulk of taxpayer funds are directed from other departments, the hounds can succeed in changing some part of how the borough is managed without having to debate the merits of the reorganization.

Spending assembly hound Woods has realized he is out of the yard and is full of glee because he thinks they are headed to a coal mine being planned close to Palmer. He is sure there are money bones for him and his old hound friends and family under all that coal dust. In fact he seems anxious to roll in its toxic brew of arsenic, mercury, metals and seems unafraid of any lethal health threats like asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease. His generation didn't depend on any science and data. Facts are so inconvenient and he doesn’t really understand them anyhow. 

Spending assembly hound Halter even though he has managed to acquire some pretty nice money bones for his own yard isn’t done with the ride. He is gaining support from the other hounds desperate for their own kennel upgrades. He has found the magic of putting more than you need in the trunk of the spending hound car trunk so it appears that he is actually giving something up when trading for things for his hound yard. He has also convinced the other hounds to stop the car long enough to task the borough manager and the hired mad "forensic scientist budget analyst " hound (who again was phoning it in for the whole meeting and spoke for about 10 seconds total) to each bring a list of $3 million "uncommitted" capital dollars in the borough coffers to the next meeting. He is hoping there are enough money bones to fill his part even if it also flows into other hounds' parts of the trunk.


Spending assembly hound Colver gets his hound collar out of the door long enough to jump out and lift his leg on some bushes and pace around with his frustration several times. Hound Colver is increasingly getting his feelings hurt by the ceremonial mayor hound that does not seem to recognize his importance and need to hear his own bark to bloviate and pontificate about using his process of "Colvinating" to get it right. He is impatient to see how much money can be saved for his more things for his own empire annex doghouses that will be ready for occupancy some day. He is afraid he won’t be able to stash enough taxpayer funds in hiding places in the yard to dig up later for projects that allow him to keep his powers and reward his barking buddies. He is successful in pushing off some big decisions to the next meeting when both the manager and clerk will be absent and his tales will be threatened with less truth.

Spending assembly hound Salmon got out a growl to say “We hired a manager to manage the borough. It’s his job. My job is to set policy”. His next bark gets $70,000 of taxpayer money to count the cars and people that might help his fellow KABATA board members dispute that pesky audit the legislators believed. Hound Salmon wants you to believe that a shiny new demographic study will benefit the borough but says nothing about his own benefits as a Realtor if the math is believed. This spending hound hopes the car won’t stop long enough for the people to bother to read about the moment in time around 2000 when he was borough mayor. The time when big plans for a ferry were hatched that now floats in the waters far away and requires big borough taxpayer checks monthly for its room and board. He also hopes the magical thinking he played a part in that sold acres and acres of borough land for less than market value for the big profit of some will not be remembered. That money was then and now is the time for deals for the deal makers.

Assembly hound Keogh, sitting on the curb, inhaling toxins from the spending hound car, is still guarding the people's house.  The line to admire and pet him is stopping traffic because people that own the house know he is the only one staying around to stand guard. The ceremonial mayor hound tries to ignore Keogh by not acknowledging his barks to participate in the debate. Spending hound Colver is especially irritated at Keogh for his attempt to cut some money out of the assembly budget that might be used for trips to Juneau. Spending hound Colver has successfully had his picture taken and posted on the front page of the borough website with governor candidate Walker. His dreams of a run for Lt Governor make him giddy. Spending hound Colver is particularly irritated that hound Keogh would try to dig where he is placing funds for his later projects.  Like the wise hound he is, Keogh ignores this and continues his plans to protect the people's house.



To say the ceremonial mayor has pretty much no control of these meetings is not a stretch. He might as well stay longer on vacation buying breeding stock. Discussion on amendments and motions on the table are being blurred out of recognition as assembly spending hounds are allowed to jump from one sacred cow to another. Maybe the cow part has the mayor distracted.


WHO PAYS?



Of the $120 million dollars placed in borough coffers this year $82 million is property tax dollars. Dollars that have been flying out of the window of the assembly spending hound car like confetti. The hounds continue down the road of throwing the least amount they can to the the critical needs in a growing borough with a land mass the size of Scotland and miles of roads that make goat trails look like freeways. Growing populations need services from a borough assembly with an insatiable appetite for mega projects and truly not much more. Where is there room in a budget for services? Oh and why we are on the subject we are up to about $9 million dollars in lost revenue from all the "property exemptions" the state mandates and then doesn't reimburse the borough for. Along with the still uncalculated loss of revenue coming to the borough from this assembly giving big business a go free pass on anything under $1 million dollars in inventory with a plan to do away with it altogether which is probably why there is nothing but huffing and puffing being done to calculate or enforce it. The city of Anchorage must be laughing all the way to the bank as they collect on business inventory of anything over $20,000 which brings the city millions. 

WHAT WILL THERE BE ROOM IN THE BUDGET FOR?


It’s what the assembly hounds would like to call “economic development”.  Based on what we have seen and read and what history serves up, we prefer to call it “wishes and hopes” planned by a herd of unicorns drunk on power rainbows and paid for by property owners. Small property owners not the ones with acres of land and prime borough property they got during the last raid of borough assets.

The spending hounds much like the neighborhood dog that never has a hope of catching the passing car seem unlikely as ever to reach consensus on a 2014 borough budget that chooses service to the people that live in the valley instead of serving up profits to business. The economic director has become shamelessly the Great Dane that is able to sit like a Chihuahua on some assembly spending hound laps licking their faces and is paid handsomely to do their bidding in the community.

Press releases are carefully worded to sound almost like the thieves are doing you a favor cleaning out your house in the middle of the day while you’re at work. No doubt a limited borough staff makes  good productions that sell big business in the borough but do they really portray what is going on here? Are they attracting the right type of business to the borough that will care about a long term commitment and investment and not just a lack of regulation and oversight that allows them to make a quick profit and leave?

ARE WE THERE YET?


Are the spending hounds done with the budget meal that was served them and now ready to move on to transformation into spending buzzards that pick off all the meat available and leave the borough piggy bank carcass in the ditch?  Several of the spending hounds are convinced there is still some unspent money from borough projects left buried in the yard and they are relentlessly digging with questions and threats.

Yes the assembly spending hound car took a pretty wild ride at the last meeting but it elected to stop to refuel (no energy saving vehicle for this pack) so it can roll again next Wednesday May 22nd and possibly even the next day before it eventually bounces off the curb and is ready for the next ride with taxpayer funds.  Heck there could be a deal being made to sell the whole borough off to some investor in China brewing behind closed doors. 

At this rate the budget should be ready to sign off on sometime before you start your Christmas shopping. 


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

SPENDING HOUNDS ....




Can borough residents stand more "conservative"governing? 

WARNING SPENDING HOUND VISUAL AHEAD…

We think this about sums it up because you know pictures even mental ones are better than words.

Imagine the spending hounds ie: your assembly driving a hound clown car that holds not just the assembly spending hounds but the taxpayer check book.

Assembly spending hound Arvin is driving the car with only one destination in mind. The destination only he and he alone knows and will take no directions from any other hound or spectators along the road who are for the most part trying to stay out of his way.

Assembly spending hound Colver and Assembly spending hound Colligan with tongues wagging are hanging out the front seat passenger window relentlessly asking “When will we be there” and “can we get out now?”

Assembly hound Colligan is trying to make his fellow hounds pay attention to a map he wants to download if he could only find a signal and get the other spending hounds to pay attention. He knows how the trip will be successful if he can just get their attention.

Assembly hound Colver more comfortable wearing a cape instead of a collar is stuck in the door and can only get a few barks out. He worries he won’t get to the fire hydrant he has picked out before spending hound Arvin decides to stop the car.

Assembly spending hound Salmon is in the back seat of the hound car and as grumpy as can be because he didn't want to leave the yard and no one told him he would have to take this long car ride. His pleas for stopping the car so he can get out are falling on deaf white floppy Arvin spending hound ears.

Assembly spending hound Woods is in the backseat next to Salmon. It’s not clear he knows where he is or why he left the yard in the first place. He keeps looking for the EPA or somebody from the federal government to blame but the car is going too fast. Where he’s not sure.

Assembly hound Halter is running behind the car trying to take some big things like money for education out of the trunk so he can get some other goodies that he thinks will look good in his dog yard. He is smiling and biting the tires almost simultaneously.   

Assembly hound Keogh is sitting on the curb. He is the only one with enough sense not to want to go for the ride in the spending hound car because he was told to guard the people’s house. He knows it’s quite likely that the spending hounds will crash. He is catching all the toxic exhaust from the clown car while he waits for the inevitable.

The ceremonial mayor hound is still standing in the field trying to figure out how to get his veto equipped tractor unstuck in time to pop a few tires on the spending hound car. He wants to ride in the car but the other hounds have made sure his tractor wont go anywhere because it's stuck in an abundance of cow manure.

The hired "budget analysts-financial mad scientist" is running alongside the car trying not to roll under the tires which might preclude his chance to jump in the car and always ride around with the spending assembly hounds.

You get the picture...



Last night’s special assembly budget deliberation meeting started out with the ceremonial mayor giving the floor to Assemblyman Arvin who joked “the dog ate my homework”. This after successfully suspending the last meeting nearly a week ago because the assembly contract financial guru Jim Wilson wasn't there and Arvin argued that he needed to be there to "get it right".  

But wait Wilson was nowhere to be found when last night’s meeting began. 
Was Arvins joke on the taxpayers of the borough who is paying for this series of special deliberations and turning into quite the messy process?

After a hasty break 30 minutes into the meeting Wilson was found and...

Wait for it ...he PHONED it in. From his home in Oklahoma we suspect. Either that or from under the hotel bed considering what followed.  

Wilson quickly tried to unravel some knots he made in his budget suggestions (that Arvin admitted was only to he, Colligan and Colver)  and the spending assembly hound Arvin attempted to cut $425,000 out of the borough retirement reserves.Wilson was the "expert" hired by this same sitting assembly two years ago but he clearly didn't know or remember how the state retirement program in which the borough participates works and the needed reserves be kept for them to operate. Wilson gave a few soggy, hard to hear answer to questions carefully filtered by the mayor who also seemed frustrated. 

Spending hound Arvin moved to put the retirement reserves back into the budget until they had more answers. But other cuts were made by the suggestion of Wilson. Cuts to finance (really..the assembly is micro managing tax bill printing costs?), administration, the revenue and budget department and their favorite target the Planning Department. Wilson's advise for a cut to the legal department was stopped in its tracks when the assembly was informed after settling yet another lawsuit the account he wanted to move it out of was dry. 

Spending hound  Colver described Wilson's technique as historical and scientific forensic accounting”. Were guessing Wilson used this same method to not understand the borough retirement system or seemingly to even talk to borough finance about it. Turns out this forensic accountant reporting comes via pen and paper consisting of notes scribbled on an existing borough spread sheet or at least that is what was handed out to the audience. No pie charts, formulas or shiny glossy reports. Even at $225.00 an hour plus  reasonable expenses. 

Maybe spending hound Colligan should talk to Wilson about this century accounting software programs or be provided a lesson from the school district before he makes more suggestions to chase down the rabbit hole.

SPENDING HOUND CAR CONTINUES ON...

Several amendments were left on the table without action with promises for more to hit on Thursday. No word if Mr. Wilson will join in the meeting or spend any time asking questions of the people that work at the borough instead of talking to the hounds. We see that spending hound Colver has offered an amendment to move the position for a "financial analyst" into administration's budget for $113.838. What does that mean we don't really know except we're pretty sure the last thing the manager needs is more management from the micro managing spending hounds. 

To his credit spending hound Arvin offered and passed an amendment to fulfill the school district’s 3% increase in local funding although it should be more to put it on par with other large districts . Keogh had already offered up the amendment to fully fund the request from the district but it had not been acted on yet.  Health and social service grant matches ($150,00 and already offered by Keogh too) youth court ($75,00) and Wasilla City Planning ($200,00 for the SART program in disguise) all passed but are still subject to amendments and the ceremonial mayor's veto pen. 

Spending hound Colligan has made a few suggestions about more money for accounting software to bring the borough into this century. Not a bad idea unless he wants to put Wilson in charge of this century and he might have to wrestle with hound Halter for the $400,000 prize for his yard. 


For a complete wrap up and much more to fill in the blanks we suggest you tune into Radio Free Palmer KVRF 89.5 FM (or www.radiofreepalmer.org ) tomorrow (Thursday regular feature of Mike and Friend’s Show) at 8am-9am when the citizen lobbyist visits. The full meeting from last night is available for your own listening torture on the Radio Free site.

TRAVELING ON FOR MORE FUN...


The hounds are back at it on Thursday for yet another "special budget deliberation meeting". Since as the ceremonial mayor said they hadn't "made much progress" and despite the little snarl by Salmon they scheduled two more meetings next week for deliberations.  That would mean if they don't finish tomorrow night the assembly will meet for their regular meeting next Tuesday and then again Wednesday and Thursday on the budget.


Not sure we can stand that much fun. They say it's not over till the fat lady sings.We say it's not over till the spending hound car comes to rest in the unregulated junkyard and the hounds spill out into the runoff pond.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

NOT FALLING FOR A PIG IN A POKE...


Another special assembly meeting for budget deliberations will be held tonight to decide the fate of not only the taxpayer piggy bank for 2014 but perhaps to seal the future of borough in the ground like a set of tent spikes.

We have questions. Lots of them. And you should too.


WELL THAT WAS A COSTLY TAXPAYER 15 MINUTES…


The second budget deliberation meeting may have set the record for the shortest assembly meeting. The ceremonial mayor, full assembly, attorney, numerous clerks and almost all the department heads ready to go to work were told  to onlookers surprise there would be no meeting. Assembly member Arvin seemingly feeling much more comfortable calling the shots now that he isn't perched in China moved to adjourn until tonight so he could have more time with the hired consultant now back in his home in Oklahoma at his other job. Although hired as a consultant to the WHOLE assembly, reportedly he is spending his time primarily with Arvin, Colver and Colligan making you know all those hard “male” decisions. Advising them at a rate of $225.00 a hour plus "reasonable travel & per diem that includes transportation, lodging and meals". So with Arvin refusing to reveal his plans for the FY14 borough budget and without the hired consultant the assembly meeting was cancelled. Sorry about all that expense for nothing taxpayers.And heck you would think those other assembly members were "women" as little regard these three are giving fellow brethren about the plans to craft a budget.

 THE RUNNING OF THE HOUNDS


This will be the third year the assembly has used an outside budget analyst to "assist" them with decision making on the budget. This year when Assembly member Colver first brought the action to hire a professional forward he suggested only he and members Arvin and Colligan do the vetting with the manager to fill the position. Luckily that little Machiavellian move didn't fly and the search went out to bid.

How far and wide a net was cast in a bid for a qualified CPA or Government Accounting Specialist is unclear. What is clear is that it was issued March 5th with a March 18th deadline. Following a troublesome pattern of no or low amount of bidders for projects and contracts, the borough received 2 responses for the job. Oddly the same number of applicants for the job of lobbyist for the borough received as a response to bid.

In walked Mr. Jim Wilson to claim the prize of this year’s temporary borough budget analyst. He required that the borough provide him with copies of prior year documents, current year documents, strategic plans and "current and emerging issues" from Assembly members, mayor, manager and department heads.

Are these things taxpayers have at their easy disposal? Probably not. Especially since the borough has been insisting employees sign confidentiality statements as of late.

Mr. Wilson, now serves as a deputy city administrator -director of finance & management in Altus, Oklahoma working for Elizabeth Gray the ex-borough assistant manager who now resides in Altus and serves as the City Administrator. Gray acting borough manager in 2010-11 hired Wilson to consult for the borough on the 2012 budget. That year Wilson’s advice to the delight of the assembly empire builders was to spend, spend, and spend down those borough reserves that were reportedly sitting at some $14 million plus dollars.

The spending hounds were unleashed and went right to work.

A LAUNDRY LIST OF TAXPAYER DOLLAR BILLS


Almost immediately an addition to the existing borough building was given a green light. No pesky need for voter approval for the $7 million plus addition. Mr. Colver, taking a page from his own playbook for building the Academy Charter School Empire without one ounce of voter approval brought forth serial assembly resolutions that authorized taxpayer money.

With legislation likely to be approved at the next meeting the total on the borough annex is sitting at $7,081.687 SO FAR which does not include any AV equipment, furnishings or even chairs (and for as much as we use them they better be some damn nice chairs) for the public in the new space.

Oh and the new "space" is for new offices for the ceremonial mayor, assembly (who for the most part with the exception of Keogh that don't even to bother to read the packet and hardly need more space unless it serves as an echo chamber for their own voices), manager, and clerk and attorney departments. Also included is "public space" but with no money allotted so far for furnishings the public might count on using some old discarded milking stools brought in from the mayor’s barn for seating.

And then there was this low hanging fruit that brought assembly action with the taxpayer checkbook.

  •  $100,000 for a "Port Operational Technical Advisor"
  •  $50,00-$90,000 EVERY MONTH last year for the M.V Susitna Ferry while it floated in Southeast Alaska waters. It never saw the waters of the Matsu Borough and the borough has reportedly signed an agreement to sell the $78 million dollar ferry for $6 Million to satisfy the debt to the federal government.
  •   $95,000 for "economic development cultivation". In 2010 an economic development plan for the borough was adopted. In 2011 the position of economic development director was eliminated. In 2012 a brand new director was hired with the marching orders of the assembly tucked under his arm. The shiny new director went to work bringing together a new set of voices for yet another economic plan. This one "business friendlier".
  •   $200,000 for a Hatcher Pass REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT plan.
  •   $278,812 from the school site selection reserve to supplement funding for the Academy Charter School expansion.
  •   $300,000 from last budget cycle to consider and study a regional emergency dispatch center.

That's just the list of low hanging fruit. Expenditures under $100,000 don't need assembly approval. Listing all that along with the expense for a bevy of “working groups” the ceremonial mayor has dreamed up along with "other contracts" would make us all want to drive chopsticks through our eyes. Trust us; the list includes plenty of dollar signs.

The proposed 2014 budget is online for those that feel a need to tap dance through a mine field. It's doubtful at the end of this messy process it will look anything like it does now.  It doesn't take a crystal ball to predict the budget this year goes to port, rail, the ceremonial mayor's new Point Mackenzie town site, and economic development.

The hired gun budget analyst has mostly delivered his own spin on it taking up the bulk of the first deliberation hearing that only saw a few technical changes passed. Wilson didn't reveal anything new other than his suggestion for drawing down “unassigned fund balances” and to continue the lowering of wages for what is left of staff and paring down their benefit package. No mention if the salary and full benefits including contributions to retirement the assembly and ceremonial mayor collect were part of planned cuts.

Wilson and Arvin haven’t suggested YET he serve on an extended contract as adviser with money they are mining from taxpayer funds but we are bracing ourselves for the suggestion. Wilson’s longest tenure was in the state of Texas, a free for all business hub until he was “let go” according to local newspapers. He would be helpful to a majority held assembly that models itself after so much of what they call governing there. The city of Houston, Texas population 2,099 MILLION people has NO ZONING. Fertilizer plants, and warehouses at the port along with every square inch of the borough own resources developed is the dream of this assembly. Gambling with other people’s money is seen as stewardship in their parallel universe.

QUESTIONS THAT PROBABLY WILL GO WITHOUT ANSWERS..


1.  Are assembly members getting even periodic revenue and expense reports and if so are they capable of understanding the implications of what they are reading?

2.  Will the money collect by the borough this year by an increased tobacco tax help with some of the revenue lost from cutting taxes for big business, airplane owners and developers and more importantly will any of that money that could reach an additional $2 million dollars go to matches for health and social service programs and education?

3.  Should we even count on any increase in revenue considering when Anchorage raised its own tobacco tax the expectation was a 35% increase but only resulted in a 10%?

4.  Can we borrow the school district transparency meter since the boroughs may be packed away with FY04 fund balances? If Arvin is run over by a pink bus, do we use the unassigned fund balances to backfill the Deputy Mayor seat?

5.  What return to public is the continuing investment in the port, rail. eliminated business contributions, public funds to promote projects like KABATA that are really at the mercy of the legislature? How do we finish those projects now that due to an estimated $4 billion in revenue going back to the oil companies and not in state coffers? 

6.  What did electing men wrapped in conservative flags do for us as a borough? Wait we are living the answer to that one.

AND THIS..


Assemblyman Colligan could have been talking about this year’s budget process when voting for an ordinance at the last meeting with some reluctance and referred to it as "nothing more than moving chairs on the titanic".  Even a blind pig finds an ear of corn. Colligan is right once in awhile.

With this tea party fueled majority assembly profit trump integrity, transparency and oversight. And as with tobacco the glorious moneygasm only works because of the long delay between cause and effect. We are seeing a slight glimpse of that with the proliferation of cell towers popping up like chickweed in the valley thanks to the absence of any regulation for well over a year. 

With two do nothing budget special budget meetings behind them the borough assembly will meet tonight (Tuesday April 14th) at the school district offices at 6pm and it will be live streamed on your community radio station Radio Free Palmer.  There is another special assembly deliberation meeting scheduled on Thursday at 6pm if the budget analyst isn't done whispering in Assemblyman Arvin’s ear we guess.

Our expectations for one of both of these meetings is an endless debate on debts, deficits, little pockets of saved taxpayer cash to be spent for more empire building with little regard by the majority of the assembly for the human costs of their decisions. 

If the residents of the borough don’t want this assembly to take, rent, buy or grab what belongs to them they better pay attention.