Bait and Switch

This is nearly a week in the making and it is going to be a long one my friends.  So grab yourself a brewski or three and join me for a long chew on the fat.

I have to say that I’ve been able to get to know Mayor Pro Tem Red Byboth a little bit over the last month, okay you caught me.  I’ve been able to know Byboth a lot over the last month and though I love the little red guy uber-bunches, and his heart is in the right place, I just have to put it out there this way:  Red, are you out of your effing, ever-loving mind?  You can be mad at me all you want for writing this blog, but you have it coming this time my friend because I’ve thought long and hard about our discussion the other night and I cannot believe what you did to Manson, the city employees, and ultimately the public.  It was truly crappy.

At the city council meeting Tuesday night, we thought they would be discussing a 2% bonus along with other budget items, after all that is what was on the agenda.  Then Byboth spoke and tossed a monkey wrench into the stench.  He suggested a 2% permanent raise for all of the employees, then proceeded to bestow Manson with the object of his desire and ask her to bring it on back for a sloppy second round.

I remain truly flabbergasted and nearly speechless at this notion.  Why?  Because our Mayor asked the City Manager if she could cut the general budget and bring it back to them and, oh by the way can she do it in a week, and Manson said no way.  But guess what?  It’s been completed…surprise, surprise, in less than a week!  Was it really that easy, Mindy, or did Red give you a few key hints where to look that accelerated revision post haste?

Now we’ve been invited back for a workshop that was originally scheduled for September 6th because Manson said she couldn’t do it in a week, but has now been moved up to this Tuesday, August 30th. Really?  This just gets better with every day that passes.

Let me count the perceptions this leaves me with because a couple of words have finally come to me, and let me tell you they aren’t pretty. 

Perception One: Evil Twins
From a fiscally conservative perspective, it appears our city has grown so fat and happy that they couldn’t see for looking, as my grandma Danielczak used to say.  Was our city sitting on so many expenditures that were perceived as needed, that they became merely commonplace and were overlooked all this time?  Funny how they can find a leak when Mayor Pro Tem Red Byboth gives them the thumbs-up to go out there and get themselves a freaking 2% raise.  YES RAISE.  Nothing like a little motivation to plug the leaks in the boat.

This ugly 2% bonus that Mayor Eric Hogue has been pretending is a “one time, lump sum payment” has morphed from its evil twin ‘bonus’ to ‘raise’ in a matter of a week.  Nice.

Perception Two: To Tax or Not to Tax, That is the Question
In the first work session, our council originally was contemplating providing the citizens with a ½ cent tax decrease.  In the second work session that was reduced to a ¼ cent tax decrease and then poof, it went stealthily away with the tap of Hogue and gangs staff.  The reasoning behind this?  It wasn’t going to be much of a cut to taxpayers, equaling less than $4 a year on average.  More importantly, it was brought up in the second budget workshop that though taxes should be reduced because the city of Wylie has the 2nd highest taxes in North Texas, the last thing they wanted was to find they overstepped their boundaries and had to come back a year or two later and not only take that decrease back like a bunch of Indian givers, but also increase our taxes as well.  Now wouldn’t that be peachy?

Oh, and we constantly have it tossed in our faces that we the voters gave them the ability to go even higher with the taxes and we should be bowing and scraping that they haven’t taken them that high.  Gee, good on you.

Perception Three: Ante Up
So the official go-ahead was ordained by Byboth, who couldn’t make it to the previous budget workshops but was able to fly in on his broom on this one and steal the show with his wheels and deals.  You should have watched Mayor Hogue practically piss himself in delight as the 2% raise bomb was dropped.  City Manager Mindy Manson stood there dumbfounded. 

Despite Manson’s head shaking that it would be very difficult to come up with cuts to make the 2% bonus, and nearly impossible for a 2% raise to be sustained, she was able to miraculously find some more things to cut out of the general fund, oh and in less than a week too.  Funny how the mere suggestion of money, especially at Manson’s rather healthy salary range, will motivate people.

For crying out loud, all the city had to do was come up with the roughly $250K difference in order to dole out those bonuses and a handshake, but now Red wants to provide a permanent 2% raise to the ‘remaining’ employees.  Note the word ‘remaining’ that he used and that Councilwoman Diane Culver called him out on.  But more on this later.

I pointed out to Red the other night that perception was everything and that I would have to blog about this to which he said, “Go right ahead.”  Red took the ante of a 2% bonus on up to a 2% raise, which I would have to guess will be presented in the workshop Tuesday night by Manson, though I hope not.  I believe we need to stick with the original premise of a 2% bonus and find the cuts in the general fund in order to make this work.  I believe Red is living a pipe dream and if he pushes that pipe down the taxpayers throats, his credibility and ethics will likely be questioned, especially for promoting permanent expenses in an unstable economy. 

I’m all for helping out the employees in Wylie.  They are some of the most dedicated and hardworking individuals I’ve ever watched.  I totally have a little puffy heart on and am absolutely googly-eyed in love with Chief John Duscio, who does such a fantastic job with what he has to work with, even writing back to me personally on some complaints I’ve made about the teenaged Lucifer who lives behind me and loves to vandalize my fence and yard.  Our fire personnel are top notch professionals with a response time so quick it will make the hair fly off your forehead.  Our City Engineer Chris Holsted is a champion who really has his act together and is a wealth of information whenever you need it.  There are others too numerous to mention, but these are some of my personal faves.  I’m all for giving them a raise, when it is prudent to do so.  I’m all for giving them a bonus, as long as the rainy day fund isn’t tapped as a response.  I’m all for giving them what they want so long as we aren’t leveraging equipment for years to come in order to make it all happen in the dream world that Red painted the other night.

Perception Four: Dropping Like Flies
Byboth’s big plan is for Mindy Manson to go back to the budget drawing board, having been given the green light to give a permanent 2% raise which has already been word-smithed as ‘increase’ even though she stated there was no way such a permanent increase was sustainable.  So let yourself imagine the unthinkable and fathom exactly what could be next, because on top of raising the raise, Red added to the strife yet again with a little bit of “remaining employees” terminology.  So don’t be surprised if this new and improved budget doesn’t include some heads rolling as well.  Nothing like leaving the bodies in the wake behind you.
Do the employees want their 2% so badly as to toss each other under the bus to get it?  I highly doubt that.  There sat the employees looking around at each other wondering who was going to get the axe in this deal.  This was a truly tragic piece of work.

I hope the employees get on the phone and call Red and ask him WTF?  Because if he was serious, the employees now run the risk of losing longtime friends and peers in order to get a 2% raise, when all it took were some cuts to equal as close to the $250K as possible in order to get that one time, lump sum payment that really needs to be called an effing bonus, and everyone would have gone on their merry way.  Is it me or did Red bitch-slap the public with a bait and switch?  In a word; yes.

The End Result:
The perceptions in my mind about these expediently devised cuts remain steadfast.  Since the economy started its quick descent in 2008 and we have yet to provide the handing out of pink-slips, is there indeed some dead-weight on staff?  Probably.  My company once stood at 40 employees 3 short years ago and you can count us now at 17.  We get the job done because those left know how to rock and roll.  So do I understand if this looming workshop will include a reduction in staff?  Yes.  Am I happy about it?  Absolutely not, especially when other cuts could have been made to give the bonus and all of the employees would have been able to stay in their jobs another year.  Sure, a 2% permanent raise sounds awesome but right now it just plain sucks the big one for those who lose their jobs so the ‘remaining’ employees can get a raise off their backs.

Mostly I am unhappy about this new turn of events because one of the specialties of the day bragged about when these budget talks started was that Wylie didn’t have to hand out pink slips or even dole out furloughs.  If staff reduction is their plan to get from point A to point Z, then they fail miserably.  They fail the employees.  They fail the budget.  They fail the taxpayers.  I would like to give them the big ‘F’ because it happens to be this Yankee girl’s most favorite letter of the alphabet.

Personally, I voted for Mayor Eric Hogue twice.  I could have ‘no-voted’ him in the last election since he ran unopposed, but I felt it more important to send a message that he was supported, despite that fact he was ‘no voted’ in big numbers.  If this new budget deal is merely a pink-slip haven in order to give out raises rather than bonuses, then I am saddened that he does not appear to be supporting us in return, because 2011-12 will become known as the little budget that couldn’t.

Do I expect to see an emasculated budget before us on Tuesday?  Probably, because at the end of the day when you still have rainy day funds sitting there burning a hole in Mayor’s and Manson’s pocket, swapping out funds and labeling them for something the public perception finds as ‘acceptable’ rather than ‘unacceptable’ still means you are taking the funds out.  But as Mayor Eric Hogue says, “do you want the city of Wylie to just stock-pile the tax dollars…?”  No, but we expect those we voted in office to behave with our checkbooks and budget in a manner befitting the honor we bestowed upon them.