Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ER #60: Budget Buffoonery

City Hall Elevator Rumblings  #60

Rider #1:  This time of the year really depresses me.  And it’s not just the hot weather.  It’s that we have to maul three-fourths of the Amazon rain forest to mulch paper for the 2013-2014 annual operating budget document.  When we claim the city is going green, we are definitely doing our part to wipe out the greenery!

Rider #2:  Isn’t that the truth.  Do you remember how “The Great Tome of Secreted Squirreled Bucks” document reached a record 620 pages for the 2011-2012 budget?  That was our banner year for obfuscation.  And the funny, or really sad, thing was most of the council members actually believed they understood what they were hearing during all the presentations.

Rider #1:  Really!  The glazed look on their faces during a budget retreat is priceless.  Well, I hope they bring their winter jackets to the August 10th budget retreat, because this should be another ‘snow job’ presentation by the city manager.  And this final budget, swan song of his will surely have the council reeling and singing Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” when they fly through the approval process for the budget on September 20th.

Rider #2:  The beauty of the manager’s budget document this year will be that even his bad news will make it seem like council members are being gifted with free sporting ducats placed under their front door mats.  Each department, when reflecting their financial information, must start with a city manager approved statement.  This will assure that no questions will be asked by council members.  For instance, the Water and Sewer department statement would read: ”As a result of winning the Baldrige Award, the W/S Department can raise water and sewer rates at least four times during 2013-2014 budget year.”  How’s that for sliding over bad news?  Who is going to question the omnipotent and stupendous Baldrige award pronouncements?

Rider #1:  In the old days, city managers compiled a rather simplistic budget document that reflected the department’s financial reports in a manner that even citizens could understand.  Today, the budget has to skew numbers, deal departmental transfers, hedge historical actuals, meld mission mishmash, pander personnel shifts, praise performance puffery, color rainbow charts, and promote pompous projections amid all the strategic plans, goals and other assorted gobbledygook the city manager passes off as progress and enlightenment.  I can hear Clara Peller hollering at the council, “Where’s the beef budget?”  

Rider #2:  Speaking of citizens, have you ever seen a citizen’s suggested addition or change, provided during a budget public input session, incorporated in the final budget?  I’m still holding my breath waiting for that to happen. 

Rider #1:  Let’s get started and finalize this monstrosity.  I have a feeling that this year the city manager will submit the budget document to the Pulitzer Prize committee for the best fiction novel for 2013-2014.  He might need another resumé filler award for his job application forms.  After all, the expenditures for all the Baldrige accolades are waining what with all the city banners fading and the Las Colinas APT system, wrapped in Baldrige splendor, just not moving very many people.   

A note from counsel: These “candid” elevator conversations have been injected with fabricated nouns, verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, adverbs, modifiers and maybe a few dangling participles….Mark Holbrook