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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.



1 comment:

  1. Hah! If Arvin is run over by a pink bus it's because the owner of said pink busses has his nose right where it shouldn't be. Stop quick Arvin!!

    ReplyDelete