A perspective on the March 24th special election

edited March 2015 in Opinion

To Salida Citizen readers,

Voting should be an act that demands some thought. I would like to request that those who vote in the March 24th Special election regarding the City of Salida’s sales tax distribution consider a few ideas before making their decision.

Political and social scientists have proven that most citizens vote based on their emotional response to an issue. It is unhelpful that both sides will accuse the other of propagandizing when, in fact, all sides of any issue are marketing their beliefs in the act of stating their case. Too often, while electioneering, we spend too much time denigrating the other side and too little time stating what will be good if our candidate or issue passes.

My request is that we forget the hot buttons that will lead us to vote primarily with our emotions. Past memories of how we felt wronged by the government or by the believers of a particular issue or group need to be set aside. Rather, please ask yourself what will be best for our City in the long haul? What will move the City in a positive direction? What ballot measure will allow any City Council to fund the services that will make Salida great from this moment onwards? That question trumps all past considerations and experiences.

I will add a personal opinion. Several months ago I asked all members of the City Council to specifically state how they would allocate the City’s funds should the Carlisle- Farney ballot issue pass. Not one member of the Council has done this. This makes it very difficult to make a thoughtful decision. So I once again I make my plea to all members of the Council to state how they would allocate the City’s funds should either ballot measure pass.

Thanks and good luck,
Chuck Rose

Comments

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  • Very well said Chuck. Your request to Council makes total sense and forces our elected officials to work backwards from the projected revenue changes and allocate funds based on their beliefs and those of their constituents. This will shine the spotlight on the consequences any of the ballot choices.

    Finally, I would add that we have to think of the big picture. Short term, tactical shifts in funding may look good the first year and satisfy a few people, but bring disastrous results over time, especially if Council overly constrained in doing their job.

    The League of Women Voters forum tomorrow (March 5th) is a great opportunity to hear the facts, first hand in a rational discussion. It's at 7pm in the Touber Building.

  • Chuck, I thought Hal Brown did state his version of the spending you speak of. You posed the question to council, but was not the version adopted by the City an answer from council, as well? We can speculate all you want, but let us deal with the hand that gets dealt, this is now in the voters hands.

    Melodee Hallett

  • edited March 2015

    Melodee,
    Thank you for a response. If you thoroughly read my above comment I do request that the Council members state their budgetary responses to both ballot measures. My original letter was written in October. At that time the 2015-2 referendum had not been offered. I agree this will soon be in the voter's hands but do not believe the Council has given us the information necessary to make an intelligent decision. That information being how would each Council member deal with the shift in dollars from operations to capital?

    For me, Hal's responses have not been adequate. In his last opinion piece he stated that funds could be moved from operations to capital if a problem with funding operations were to occur. Under Farney-Carlisle that would be illegal. He has also suggested that money from the reserves could be used to finance operations. This would not be sustainable and would merely be making the operations funding problem something future Councils would have to deal with. I have also been disappointed in Councilman Bower's suggestion that he is sure the employees of the City's administration arm will come up the the solution. It is not their job-it is his job as an elected official to make such policy. I have not heard your response to my October request.

    I would love to hear how you would fund operations should the Farney-Carlisle issue pass. We can let the rest of the Council speak for themselves.

    Thanks,
    Chuck Rose

  • edited March 2015

    Dear Chuck:

    You state that it's council’s duty to come up with solutions for potential budget issues. I respectfully point out that statement contradicts CRS § 29-1-104 of the Local Government Budget Law. It also contradicts Section II of the administrator’s contract, particularly Paragraphs B and E.

    The administrator, not council, is charged with finding and recommending solutions to budget and staffing issues. The council considers and approves her proposals, per CRS §§ 29-1-108.

    Last July, city administration advertised a job for deputy city clerk at $47,030 to $58,788 annual ($23.52 to $29.39 hourly) salary, plus excellent benefits. At the same time, it posted a police officer position at $33,050 annual ($16.53 per hour) salary and complained it could not find an applicant. The salaries offered were value judgment made within City Hall.

    In 2014, the city also paid $108,000 in “merit pay,” plus associated payroll taxes, retirement and workers' compensation premiums. I think every employee received the "merit pay," and in some cases probably not because of performance or reason. The “merit pay” seems akin to little kids’ soccer league – everybody gets a trophy whether they win or not. I’ve never heard of “merit pay” for government employees. Perhaps you have. It seems kind of strange. Most cities recognize high performance with plaques or choice parking spots or the like, granted sparingly.

    Reasonable minds could conclude that the Administrator purchases support from employees by liberally spreading tax revenues paid on food, gasoline and utilities by folks who work hard at jobs without health insurance, paid vacation and retirement. When citizenry or reality finally says “Enough!” the $99k per year administrator, not a $1,800 per year council member, needs to come up with solutions, particularly when the administrator has played a significant part in creating the problem. It is not her privilege to wait passively for council to solve the problem.

    We know that living in Salda can be hard. Living in the United States is hard. People all across the nation struggle with paying for homes and clothes and good healthy food. They say we have a coming generation of college graduates seemingly destined for chronic underemployment. In Salida, not just city employees face these issues. When the city hires a Glenwood Springs firm to install a large solar system, or purchases decorations from a company in Oregon, or uses a Denver outfit to build a new playground, it seems, however, as if only city employees count.

    I appreciate your statement: “I … do not believe the Council has given us the information necessary to make an intelligent decision.” We may not have enough information. As discussed above, however, it is not council’s duty to provide more information, but the administration’s. That it refuses to do so is probably at best rude.

    One wonders how much we pay for utilities and if there are savings to be found there, or in other areas. As you imply, without more detailed information we can't tell or put our collective minds to finding solutions that will allow all employees to stay.

    Unless and until the administration provides enough detailed information to show where all capital and operational dollars go, especially as to employees, departmental positions and salaries, its claims that the sky is falling are properly discounted to little or no value.

    Thank you for considering this.

    Yours,

    Jeff Auxier

  • Jeff, If I was one of the three Council members advocating for the Farney-Carlisle ballot issue I would feel obligated to state how I would modify the allocation of funds should the ballot issue pass. I would see it as my duty to offer my opinion on that topic to aid the voters in making their decisions. That is what should be expected from an elected representative. Chuck

  • Dear Chuck, I have a few questions for you. Why in 2008 did you and the Council think we needed $1.9 million for streets annually? The Council asserted that, in a guest opinion in 2008. Did you ever refute that assertion? Why did you and the subsequent Councils not honor that commitment? What is different today? When Councilman Yerkey asserted from the Council platform that city employee's jobs would be in jeopardy, if the Citizens Initiative passed, why did you not ask him which jobs? I took it as an idle threat, intended to intimidate employees and make citizens fearful of losing services. Maybe you perceived Councilman Yerkey's comments the same way I did and ignored them. Such a threat calls for more clarity. Why have you not asked the current Council, 3 of them and the Mayor, why they are supporting their initiative? Why did they set up an audit committee and then fail to fund it? I believe what the administration and some on the Council are trying to avoid, is clear detailed budgeting and auditing. Hal Brown, by the way, drafted a fairly decent alternative initiative. Have you asked the crew of four why they did not consider Hal Brown's initiative? The flies in the ointment were compromise and accountability. These are words from which Councilpersons Yerkey, Baker, Rogers , and our City Administrator are fleeing. As long as Mayor Dickson is supporting them we will not have thorough information about how our money is being spent. Billy C

  • Billy,
    I do not remember the specifics of the $1.9million/year quoted eight years ago. I do remember the Public Works Director Rob Vance coming up with a figure associated with a ten year cycle to bring our roads up to snuff. Obviously, the annual cost is determined by the time frame, in years, that one is seeking to improve the Salida Streets. The situation we had to deal with was similar to the person that has spent the bulk of their life overweight, drinking and smoking. The return to health will take a while in light of how long they neglected self maintenance. My opinion is that the same is true for the roads of Salida.

    In my Citizen opinion article that has kicked off this string, I did ask all members of the Council to state how they would deal with the re allocation of funds should Carlisle-Farney pass (please reread the last paragraph).

    What we know is that if your ballot issue passes the rough equivalent of 10 FTE's will have to be eliminated. How that is done only the Council will decide. They could eliminate 20 .5 FTE employees, 10 full time employees or any other permutation. No one on the Council has intelligently answered that question. This makes a thoughtful and empirical decision regarding how to vote on your initiative impossible. The Council referendum does not reduce operational funding. It does guarantee 1 million as a minimum annual expenditure for roads. It does not create the same re allocation question the Carlisle-Farney petition does. Hence, in my opinion, it creates less of a question.

    Others have muddied the waters by saying you could take Capital funds that were unused in a budgetary year and move them to operations. You cannot do that legally. The same opinion stated that we can cover the re allocation by using available reserves. I think that is short term thinking. All of us, whether a private citizen, a business or a government need a cushion to cover the unexpected. Ironically, the "unexpected" should always be expected just as a bust follows a boom.

    I must close by saying our focus on streets has led many to forget the other important services whose fiscal needs must also be met. A responsible Council has to juggle a lot of citizen needs and streets are only one.
    Chuck

  • edited March 2015

    What's the salary of an FTE? What job does an FTE do?

    Salida uses the term to obfuscate reality in the budgets.

  • Sorry Jeff, In my experience it is a common acronym used to describe wages, benefits and pensions costs per a 40 hour work week. The City's average is about 50,000/FTE. Obviously we have a difference of opinion Jeff. I have always found it a clear description when used by anyone including Salida. Chuck

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