Just Trust Us
This week's newspapers announced the city's
plan to hike our water rates. I was shocked. We all want to trust our government.
But in the past month we've seen tax money used to pay public relations
firms and lobbyists for the Urban Renewal Agency while regular folks
are threatened with a lien on their homes if the sidewalk in the
city's right of way is not promptly repaired. And now our
water rates will climb in an effort to make us use less, even though
this looks to be a banner year for water levels. These are not
great ways to make friends and influence people. These are not signs
of responsive government.
The article in the Press states our water
rates will increase to promote conservation. It's not because they
need the money. The
Water Department started with nearly $2 million dollars leftover
from last year. In addition, their Capitalization Fund stands at
half a million dollars. The Water Department is one of the
Enterprise Funds, which means that their money can only go for water
issues. Nothing else. Their money can't be legally used for
other purposes, like, oh, say for example, an Education Corridor. But
could they fudge around and buy some land they really don't need,
then later trade it for some land needed by another department in
the city? Not saying it has happened. Not saying it hasn't.
Jim Markley, city Water Department superintendent,
was quoted in the Press as saying, "The city of CdA has done a good job
in building excess capacity, which allows for its cheaper rates." Kudos
to you, Mr. Markley. You have done that part of your job well. But
don't raise our current rates just because you can. That makes
us mad. The economic downturn is taking a toll on citizens in many
ways that can't be controlled. Don't pile on.
This all, of course, comes on top of the
$420,000 tax dollars for the Lofts luxury condos with fake brick
siding, the $820,000 for the tall Parkside Tower upscale condo
building which is almost completed, and a host of other LCDC projects
too numerous to list. It
comes on top of nearly $4.5 million public dollars given to the private
church community center, without a public vote or meetings. And
on top of a new library that was more than $600,000 over the approved
public bond total, containing the new city council chamber/ community
room combo. The city gave an additional $100,000 for this room
so they'd have a state-of-the-art setting for city council meetings.
But it wasn't designed well. It has terrible sound problems, exposed
video cameras, was built without drop down screens for presentations
and has spotty, irritating, angled lights shining on the raised level
for the council.
I report and remind you of all of this
because I'm thinking of that old adage: "The best predictor of future performance is
past behavior". Certainly our city has accomplished some
very good things, our current water rates being among them. But
the number of mismanaged, seriously over-budget, shrouded, misrepresented
projects has been astounding. It does not inspire confidence.
So after all the missteps by the city and
their cavalier attitude toward the voters, the Mayor asks us to
trust them. At a meeting two weeks ago in Post Falls, the Mayor
said we should trust their image of what CdA will look like in
the future. She bids us
to get on board with the city council's vision because they are planning
the Education Corridor, McEuen Field renovations and a major downtown
parking structure. All of these projects are huge investments
and ongoing financial commitments for the tax payers.
The problem is that we, the citizens, have
not seen the vision. We
aren't privy to the information and have not been invited into the
process. That privilege seems restricted to a select few. The
Stakeholders. The elite group of people who have something
to gain from the outcome, so they are asked to weigh in on the decisions.
So here's my broken-record request to our
city leaders: Please
have public meetings, early and often. Show us your plans,
tell us how much it will cost and ask us our opinions before the
decisions are finalized. Put all large projects up for a
public vote! Oh, and don't raise our rates just because you
I hope and pray that our officials don't
all agree with city councilwoman Deanna Goodlander, when she was
quoted in the Spokesman Review, April 24, 2001 on the library project: "I don't think it was our intent
to keep people out of the process", she said, "we just
didn't want to mess up the deal." Just trust them?