By Justin Wedel
It is said that if you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it. While I venture to guess that most of us do not subscribe to this adage, our City Council surely does. This is no more obvious than the council’s continued drum beating that they did not cause the city’s financial mess and that the city’s finances have in fact been managed conservatively.
The continuation of their lie is the Blue Ribbon Task Force on “Fiscal Heath.” From the start, the council’s goal of this farce has been clear: raising your taxes to cover their mistakes and to continue the council’s out-of-control spending addiction.
The dedicated Task Force members, who are to be applauded, utilized the past two meetings to review the group’s preliminary findings and recommendations. While the Task Force has proposed some recommendations that have the potential to improve the city’s long-term financial situation, their preliminary report does not include any findings on the council’s mistakes – a necessary step to prevent the city from repeating the financial mistakes from the past decade – nor are there any recommendations on how or where to make cuts.
The Task Force’s results should not come as a shock to anyone. The council purposely limited the group’s scope to obtain the results — and political cover — they need to raise your taxes while lying to the community about what the Task Force was asked to accomplish. Rather than doing what is best for the community the council prefers to continue their Rovian ways in hopes of covering up the truth that they are responsible for our poor financial health.
As our council-driven financial mess continues to cause issues in our community and if they embark on a path to raise our taxes, you will hear the council claim that they are not to be blamed. Some of their statements will be true — the poor economy has negatively impacted the city’s finances but it has not caused the financial mess, as the council will, and has, claimed — yet most will be political rhetoric. Do not be fooled. This mess has been caused directly by the council’s financial ineptitude and their inability to implement long-term financial leadership.
Here are the inescapable facts:
- Under their leadership our per-capita general fund spending is almost TWICE as much as compared to any municipality around Walnut Creek – almost $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Walnut Creek.
- The City Council still does not have an official long-term financial plan in place – no wonder we are in this financial mess.
- General fund revenue has decreased only $4M from its high, yet the city was forced to close a shortfall of more than $20M in 2010.
- General fund revenue grew only 12 percent (18 percent at the peak) in the last decade yet general fund expenses exploded by 67 percent. We would have run into our current problems independent of the macroeconomic situation.
- By 2012, our reserves are projected to have declined by almost 75 percent. We will continue to deplete reserves to balance our budget until at least 2012.
- Employment costs, driven and approved by the council, have placed a huge burden on our budget, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
- Our public infrastructure (roads, building, pools, etc.) is crumbling and our council has failed to save for its replacement.
Now, more than ever, our city leadership requires openness, honesty and ownership of their actions. This is the type of leadership that we, the people, require, deserve and is sorely missing.
Justin Wedel is a Walnut Creek resident, businessman and 2010 council candidate.