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.)
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.