In response to Rand Watson
Even sitting Mayors can have opinions. And this isn’t a campaign speech, because I couldn’t get anyone to run against me. This is to address some of the constant criticisms from a select few.
Letters to the Editor can be especially interesting. Of special interest was the Sept. 25, 2019 Edition. It started with the sentence “Responsible City leaders that served Menan in the past successfully budgeted funds or received grants for road maintenance.” The letter then goes on to trash the idea of a levy. Then it mentioned in a rather direct way that the sitting City Council was ignoring the will of the people.
I decided to do a little fact-checking. It’s interesting to note that from 2004 to 2018, the city only operated in the black for four of the 14 years. I could ask how successful a budgeting method is that runs in the red 71% of the time. The only years that came out in the black were 2006–07, 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2010-11. I have no idea who is responsible for those years, but I am sure that everyone will claim them. The other years were all in the red, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a significant amount.
The sitting City Council budget results are little different. All four years of my Mayorship are covered with red ink. It is interesting to note that shortly before my taking office, the city had just signed a four-year lease agreement for a $60,000 backhoe. We were also toward the end of paying off a Circle pivot for the sewage lagoons. I am not criticizing either one of these purchases, they were probably necessary at the time the decision was made. But the fact is, “debt is the gift that keeps on taking.” It has taken us four years to own that backhoe at $15,000 a year.
Also interesting to note is that Cash Reserves balance has been slowly dropping throughout the years. Essentially, we have been burning the furniture to warm the house for years. Anyone with a budget home knows that you can’t operate in the red for very long before the money runs out. Either you make more money, or spend less money. If you’re smart, you’ll try to do both in order to replenish your lost Reserve. For the sitting City Council, the jury is still out on 2018–19. All of the fiscal year’s debits are in, but we still have some income yet to be deposited. If we’re in the negative, it should be a fairly small number. So, in four years, the city council has managed to pay off legacy debt and create a budget that at least strives to be realistic and responsible. We have managed to shift the paradigm from “if it’s in your budget, spend it”, to “let’s make a reasonable budget that we can live by and still spend within our means.”
When it comes to the large amounts of road work done in previous years, who in Menan remembers the last asphalt to actually be laid? Show me the asphalt.
The only repair/replacement project of any size has been the full road replacement up by the Valley Wide store. That was a couple of years ago. It was paid for in large part by an LHTAC Grant. We apply for the LHTAC every year. It seems to be they deny the grant until you build up enough to denial points to be awarded a grant. Looking at the historical budget, it is very difficult finding entries talking about road improvements. It’s only in 2016 that any real road repair entries start showing up in the budget. There are some large expenditures to engineering firms for a traffic impact study, transportation plan and other engineering work. These are all necessary expenditures, but you can’t drive on a transportation plan. Someone show me asphalt projects that are older than four years and yet newer than 20. Someone please tell me how a street system goes from a shining example of high speed transit, to a collection of old cracked streets in a mere 4 years.
We are constantly taking criticism for not putting enough effort into securing Grants. It’s probably a lack of imagination on my part, but I can’t help but feel that a rational, realistic budget, year after year is the way to go. I don’t think you can balance a budget on other people’s money. Not realistically. I believe in seeking grants, but I don’t see them as a way to reliably balance a budget.
It’s only recently that we have been able to monetize the 4th of July celebration enough to pay for itself and fund some significant community events without using city tax money. The very fact that we have started to charge for some events and services has drawn the ire of the hecklers in the balcony. They argue that we have besmirched the integrity of the Sacred holiday.
With all due respect, the same 2 — 3 angry people who show up almost every month, unhappy with everything we do, doesn’t constitute the will of the people. Strident minorities aren’t the will of the people. An informed Electorate that actually votes is.
Apparently, it’s the curse of old Mayors, after they’ve been the Dis-elected, to be able to see the solutions with such Stark clarity. To be given the insight to fix problems they couldn’t while they were in office.
By the way, speaking of an informed electorate — Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at Menan City Hall, we will be having an informational meeting on the pros and cons of the creating a temporary line item in our budget to repair our roads. Everyone, for or against, is invited to that meeting. Come and let’s have an honest civil conversation about the situation with our streets.
Another opinion. You’ve probably read about the lack of civic-minded people willing to run in local and board elections. Almost all elections are running unopposed. Some races have no candidates at all. I think you would have to be a little crazy to run for some of these positions. School boards, trying to raise funds to educate a growing population of students with rising expenses and inflation eating up the dollar value. Fire districts looking at expensive equipment in the face of an ever-tightening budget. Elected officials constantly trying to do more with less while very little each month. All the while trying to operate under a barrage of insults from hecklers in the balcony. You would either have to be a little crazy, or love your community.
By the way, I have a backup plan if we are unable to fix the streets. I’m going to sell my 27-year-old minivan and buy a 4X4 TRUCK.