Tuesday, March 1, 2011

CCR 03-02-11: Read Before Voting

the Controversial Committee Report

“We don’t raise sacred cows...we just butcher them.”

If you read only one piece of local campaign literature this political season, then it should be the following report from one of the candidates running for mayor. (Hint: It’s not the incumbent mayor.)

Why? Simply stated, this document reflects why current incumbents running for re-election (mayor or council) cannot run on their record of “accomplishments.” Instead, they will have to base their campaigns on attacking those attempting to unseat them from their political gravy train of irresponsibility. The actions of incumbents, or their lack of oversight have caused the problems and issues noted in this report.

Here’s what has really been happening to your city the last couple of years:



Joe Putnam

The management of the City of Irving is in its worst condition in over forty years.

City Hall management is dysfunctional, erratic, capricious, and unstable. Employee morale is lower than it has been in forty years. Qualified, experienced employees are leaving and not being replaced. A few of these have been Jim Cline, Patty Landers, Janice Carroll, Mike Evitts, Nancy Webb, Ken Lewallen, Vivian Ballou, David Galvan, Sandy Cash, Cliff Miller, Dwight Pinnix, Cathy Duncan, Pat Nicks, Mike Walter, Keith Livingston, Dave Ryburn, Nick Merritt, Jim Driscoll, Paul Wahlstrom, and Harry Huson.

Eventually, the loss of skilled personnel will result in a diminution in the level of City services.

The City is without experienced or qualified department –level management in the areas of Transportation, Library, Public Works, Housing and Human Services, Personnel, Engineering, and Traffic. The Library is under the Parks Department; Housing and Human Services and Code Enforcement are under the Police Department. There is no Personnel Department. The Municipal Court is under Information Technology, and Budgeting is under Management Operations rather than Finance.

City financial management is so inadequate that on November 12, 2010, less than two months after the City Council adopted the 2010-2011 Budget, the City Manager reported that there would be a $5 million shortfall this budget year. Such a significant mistake would never happen with competent financial management.

In recent years, the City has adopted increases in fees and water rates, a sales tax on residential electricity, drainage charges, and sanitation rate increases. Our property tax rate is the highest in over fifteen years. Yet budget problems remain, and city jobs are being eliminated.

The City blames revenue decrease. However, the City’s tax base of $16,778,440,618 is $3 billion higher than the tax base in 2005 of $13,791,981,082.

In 2005-2006, the City received $118,847,180 in revenue from property taxes, sales taxes, and franchise fees. This year that amount will be $136,054,420.

One must look at present spending decisions and debt creation for answers to the City’s financial problems. In 2005 the City had a total tax-supported bond debt of $154,085,000. This year, including the Convention Center debt, our bond debt is $415,165,000.

In 2005 our bond payment was $21,947,423. This year it is $28,147,006, plus an additional $7 million for the Convention Center.

This year the City plans to give $1.7 million to the Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, $875,000 for a transportation summit, $730,000 to a consultant named David Dean, $1.1 million for a splash pool, $10.2 million for various economic development projects, and $33.7 million for a parking garage in Las Colinas.

The last two years have seen spent or budgeted $4 million for an Urban Center streetscape, $4.38 for utility undergrounding in Las Colinas, $1.6 million for an Oklahoma water lawsuit that the City lost, and $6.15 million for beautification work on MacArthur Boulevard.

The City has a $133 million debt for the Convention Center that it cannot pay. The City owes Comerica Bank another $27 million for the McDougal Project that it cannot pay, in addition to the $8 million of City monies directly spent on McDougal.

Because of the City’s financial condition and imprudent spending, City jobs are being eliminated. The Police budget has been cut $2.81 million, the Fire budget has been cut $2.86 million, the Parks budget has been cut $3.26 million, and the Library $651,961.

The Library has no director for the first time in over forty years. It is currently about 30 personnel short of adequate staffing. The Southwest Branch has been closed. Yet the City has decided to close the Main Library that has served the City well for 25 years and build a new library only a few blocks away. Two million dollars has been budgeted this year for an architect. The new library will cost millions for construction, equipment, and staffing, yet will be no better for citizens than the present facility. This idea is senseless and absurd. There is no better example of City Hall mismanagement than the reckless treatment of our once-proud Library System.

Even in spite of a revenue shortfall, the City is giving the Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce an additional $450,000 a year from rental income from the billboards on the Texas Stadium site.

The recent City audit reveals that city staff overestimated revenues in the 2009- 2010 fiscal year by $15.1 million. An error that great should not happen. The City is committed to TXDOT for $30-$40 million for the 183/114/Loop 12 project...funds it does not presently have. City staff now admits the debt to Comerica Bank, but won’t say how the debt can be paid.

From 2006 to 2010, the City’s general government shortfall has increased from $6,915,000 to $129,072,000. During that same period, debt service increased from 11.95% of non-capital expenditure to 15.16%. Per capita bond debt subject to property taxes has increased from $926.71 in 2005 to $1942.75 today.

New leadership is imperative to restore common sense and competency into City management. Employee morale must be improved. Spending priorities must be changed. Qualified personnel must be retained or hired. Financial management must be made responsible and sensible. The continuing disintegration of City Management must be stopped.

Here’s a thought. Instead of shooting the messenger for these facts and information, voters should realize that the current mayor and council have caused these items to occur. They were responsible, not the individual now seeking your vote! And remember, this was your money they were spending and wasting.

Our conclusion is that if change isn’t made this year for mayor and the council seats open, then we will witness the city slipping lower into a malaise of irresponsible spending, increased debt and an acknowledgement that big business and the chamber’s interest are considered more important than citizen’s concerns.

Want to read more? Click on the following web site. You will be amazed at the lack of transparency your local government has been involved in.