Posted under That's Life Columns
The light bulb finally came on for some. For others, the fight goes on to preserve their failing fiefdoms and perhaps expand them. Last Saturday’s city council goal setting session’s atmosphere and tenor was quite different from the school district’s Thursday session and hastily called follow up meeting on Tuesday, March 8th.
The council, to its credit, finally came to the realization that the city’s finances are in dire straits. What was apparent from finance director Jeremy Craig’s presentation is that if nothing is done, the city will have 2% reserves left in 2016.
Looks like Steve Alexander isn’t the village idiot after all. He predicted this years ago while in office and was laughed at. Guess he is the one laughing now.
Five scenarios were presented and that was the worst case … supposedly. However, I also have a degree in finance and have argued that the basis for this estimate is a moderate recovery in both sales tax and real estate tax. When I was taught to do worst case scenarios, you truly looked at the worst case which is a continuation of a slide in both.
The true worst case scenario is based on our current economic situation continuing, either stagnating or gradually worsening. We have not yet seen the impact of the revaluation of commercial properties. The overall economy is not being stimulated by printing funny money and ignoring the destruction of our manufacturing infrastructure. However, I won’t dwell on the accuracy of forecasts as many things can change both positively and negatively.
I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I was awake after hearing both Rick Fuller and the mayor, Jack Batchelor, coming on board in setting a primary goal of addressing the finances. While both were reluctant to talk policy because of current negotiations, I felt no such compunction. It is hard to ignore the fact that our staff’s wages and benefits have been at “73 to 80% of our budget over the years” according to Craig. Much as the school district, you can only cut so many employees and so many programs before there is only one buffalo left in the room.
I had to disagree with Rick that our citizens will have to get along with less services. Furloughs and layoffs were never the answer and providing adequate service was never a problem nor should it be. The problem stems from the actions of the “do nothing” councils of Mary Ann Courville over 12 years of idiocy compounded by the avarice and manipulation of the man behind the green curtain and I ain’t talking about the wizard of Oz.
So what did the council come up with to solve our looming problems? Concentrating on financial stability and balancing budgets is fine but we went further. Along with examining many different ways of cutting costs further, there were a number of other options considered and many plans to be done. Strategic planning has finally found its way to Dixon.
The message seems to finally have gotten through to our fluff less council that allowing projects to sit for 30 to 40 years is unacceptable. I believe it was the mayor who piggybacked off my suggestion that when the economy does recover, we put money toward projects rather than reinstating salaries. It was Jack’s suggestion to set up an additional set aside fund for projects such as a future community center which aren’t even on our radar at the moment.
On the revenue side of the equation and also impacted by the potential of freed up monies is economic development rather than increased taxation. “Developing partnerships with UC Davis” and enhancing infrastructure to aid and encourage development were both there.
In light of how many of us view our community and what we want to preserve, Measure B was brought up for review. This time I had to disagree with the mayor who erroneously stated that in only one year was the 3% cap broken and only by 1%. It was broken 3 times in the mid 1990’s with growth around 6% in one of those years.
My concern is that we are not planning for an eventual recovery in the housing market, whenever that might occur. I don’t want a developer to be demanding his full allotments in any one year as this puts a burden on our schools and other city staff. Measured growth was the community’s intent and it was perverted by Warren Salmons and then city attorney Dave McMurtry to allow stockpiling of allocations rather than the “use it or lose it” original intent of the measure. Two distinct five year blocks were changed to a five year rolling block. Fortunately, none of it made a difference due to the economic downturn.
So it seems that the city is finally ready to get its financial house in order. Implementing the goals is the next step. Formulating a strategy or plan and getting all to buy into it will let us succeed. It seems that the burden of much of this now falls in the employees’ laps.
Is it better for a few to continue to work for high rates of pay with reduced services to the community or the reverse, where all necessary employees continue to work for less pay. As monies are freed up and additional revenues come in, staffing levels for public safety (government’s only true real purpose) should rise to the point where overtime is minimized or eliminated and those workers have the necessary back up needed to safely carry out their functions.
At a certain point a larger question will again arise. What do we really want to see Dixon become? Do we have to continue to grow simply because we are on the Interstate corridor? What other issues need to be addressed? I have one for you.
As you look at this new direction of cooperation in the function of governance, you only have to look at the school district and its subsidiary the public library to see what “bad old boy” governance a.k.a. Big MAC “do nothing” elitism can produce. You have a school district board who is too afraid to stand up and say “Enough is enough!”
You have an out of control superintendent, Roger A-Hal …berg, who continues to play games in his attempt to retain total control. The measure of a good manager is his ability to delegate authority to others. If this is true, why is it that A-Hal … berg has to be on every committee under his jurisdiction. I guess that doesn’t extend to the library district as Roger hasn’t quite figured out that the board still controls the commission, librarian, and library in acting as the overseeing library board of trustees.
I stated that I wasn’t ready to call for the firing of Halberg. I am now. How many times do we have to listen to why the public doesn’t need to know the inner going ons of the district? We have public records act request denials by the district which end in expensive litigation. You say it doesn’t cost you anything? How many programs are lost for the kids because we don’t have this wasted funding available for them?
Last Tuesday’s meeting was another great example why Roger’s time is up. When I asked why the meeting was being held with substantially the same agenda, including an illegal closed session which was not discipline but simple the budgetary impact resulting in 14 teachers being given notice, Roger responded that it was suggested to the board that it would be better to give the public additional opportunity to speak to the items on the agenda.
This was a lie. The real reason was that the meeting had been changed from a workshop to a regular board meeting without giving proper notice to the community. To compound the matter, this snake calls for the meeting without announcing it in any public media and with slightly over the 24 hour notice required. That might explain the 3 people in attendance at the meeting. Another failure demonstrated in living color.
The library district is another example of a closed group of people making decisions counter to the will of the people. I understand that Lois Wolk’s committee is considering a bill which would create a separate board to take librarian Atkins out from under the school board’s weak surveillance. I have also heard any opposition would kill this measure. I suggest, in light of the harassment and intimidation of employees and public by Atkins, that as many people as possible contact both Mariko Yamada’s and Lois Wolk’s office to just say no.
Perhaps it is time to take even bolder steps. The school district is pretty much totally a failure with yet another school entering “program improvement” because they aren’t meeting standards. If the school board can’t get its act together, and rather than the worthless State attempting to take them over, perhaps the city needs to take this on. I have been given examples where this has been done in other areas of the country.
It worries me that the district has had 3 schools underperforming for almost 5 years. There is no excuse for this except poor management. I will give Halberg credit for taking care of 76 items left over from past administrations and the likes of Shame on you Levine. However when you can’t do the obvious, such as cutting salaries when they make up the preponderance of your budget, simply because you are protecting your own wallet, you need to go.
When the unions are willing to help and you stand in the way, I have a problem. When you tell me you are prevented by the State from changing curriculum to something more effective, I have a bigger problem. When you defend what you are doing, hiding, and the games you are playing, I have had enough. And now the board is planning on extending A-Hal’s contract beyond their terms in office? You have got to be kidding.
Again I have heard that Courteney Kett is planning on running for the board. Another name has also been put out there. She is the daughter of a local successful businessman and restaurant operator. I would hate to see her put herself out there for the whupping she will get as another rubber stamper puppet to solidify Roger’s control over this joke of a school system.
Big changes need to be made. The council did it but the proof will be in the actions taken in the next six months. Anyone can talk. The school district board must be changed with the additions of more Irina’s and less Herb’s and Jim’s.
Finally, the school board and library commission are both meeting Thursday night. Planned? It might be nice to see some of you come out and help. This is your community as well as mine. I need the help.
Ever see someone in two places at the same time? Watch …