Strange Metamorphosis

Our Wylie City Council seems to have formed a new mutual admiration society.  On one hand this pleases me because I was horrified that the citizens of Wylie voted in a potential bruiser and I was concerned that he would be so completely polarizing to council.  After his swearing in, Bubba Scott started off on the wrong foot and was immediately put in his place by Councilman David Goss when Goss called a Point of Order on Scott and made him rephrase one of his first statements Scott made as a Councilman.  I have been concerned about Scott when he shouted at his opponent at the Candidate Forum.  I figured we would merely get more of the same impatience and unprofessionalism once he was voted in.  I mean, would Wylie were hosting the Summer Olympics, we might tout a new event called slap your biatch up.  By now everyone who is anyone in Wylie knows Scott was arrested for striking his wife on the head and in the face and had to take anger management.  Yet so far, Scott has been successful in keeping his temper in check despite having lost his job before he was elected, and despite the additional challenges posed by being on Council.  

Conversely, I’m sickened by the mutual love fest because it means the conservatives on council seem to be embracing the sickeningly sticky liberals and perhaps their bizarro ideologies.  It means they are one of mind and the recent 7/0 votes seem to indicate this strange metamorphosis.  

Can this new love affair the 7 council members have with each other mean that the conservatives are content and of one mind with the liberals?  I wonder.  They couldn’t seem more at odds in the past than they did when it came to discussion on a Code of Conduct.  Mayor Hogue played both sides of the fence, Councilwoman Culver, Councilman Goss, and Councilman Jones were all in support of a Code, and especially in light of the fact the City made employees sign a Code of Conduct in 2010 and the balance of Councilmembers were against the Code. 

Sadly, this Code has been swept aside for one reason or another as our Council metamorphosed into some peculiar sort of Brady Bunch.  There were excuses that the budget must be dealt with first.  I heard that last year and this year.  There were excuses that our lawyers were working on one for Frisco and we should ride on their coattails, but that didn’t happen.  The thought has been tossed around by those who support a Code of Conduct that it should be put off permanently until the RINOs on Council were booted off, but with every passing day it appears the citizens are snookered by the RINOs and drive around in some psychedelic dream world called Wylie. It is inexcusable that these 7 decision makers in Wylie have forgotten any responsibility of accepting their own Code of Conduct and allowed everything to get in the way of it. 

I suppose I can see their point.  The two hard-assers, former Councilmen Carter Porter and Red Byboth who caused most of the ruckus requiring a Code of Conduct are now off council.  It seems the Councilman who was arrested for beating up his wife is behaving.  So why do we need a Code of Conduct then? 

This is an important question.  A Code of Conduct is needed because we do not ever want to be placed into a position again of allowing a Mayor to run amok and write official letters on City of Wylie letterhead asking for leniency in the sentencing phase of a convicted child sex offender.  We don’t ever want a Boards and Commission member to verbally accost citizens who show an interest in meetings and come to speak.  We don’t ever want Councilmembers to ignore citizens emails such as in the case that my budget email was never answered by Mayor Hogue, Councilman Bubba Scott, or Councilwoman Kathy Spillyards.  Is it appropriate for our Mayor and Councilmembers not to respond to a citizen? Not on your life.  Yet experience with Wylie’s leaders dictates this is standard practice with this Council.   Indeed, a Code of Conduct is paramount with the utmost of professionalism in Wylie and frankly there is no acceptable reason not to have one. 

Oh sure the excuses not to accept a Code of Conduct abound.  Excuses have been made by Councilman Rick White and Councilwoman Kathy Spillyards that there is a City Charter that can be followed.  If you pull that and study it, it is wholly insufficient with regard to conduct.  Mayor Hogue and Councilman Rick White point to the State Ethics Commission as their policing entity but we know from past experience that any control over behavior from an entity so far removed is tenuous at best.  Clearly, we had Councilmen such as Porter and Byboth respond to citizens in the past through email and phone in the most heinous, and snotty manner possible, even verbally slapping a Catholic Priest at a Wylie City Council meeting back in 2009.  I don’t agree that this behavior is above reproach.  I don’t agree that just because Porter and his best buddy Byboth are off Council, that the problem is somehow solved.  The problem is far from over; the issue has purely been swept under the carpet. 

If Wylie’s citizens had a means to an end that a Code of Conduct would represent, our Council would not get away with ignoring citizens and our council would not get away with casting difficult issues aside as Mayor Hogue did when I was verbally accosted by a Planning & Zoning Commission member and I took my complaint to him in 2010.  Had I had a way to bring this to Council and the public and know that my story would be heard, rather than some fabricated story that was obviously spread by a group of City gossips, perhaps this blog might never have been started.  In fact, had that woman who accosted me been removed from her seat, this blog would never have been started.  Rather, an obstinate Council voted to reinstate that woman to her P&Z post.  Just some food for thought about the poor behavior and its widespread acceptance by the Wylie City Council, and more importantly by our Mayor Eric Hogue.

I grow increasingly concerned that even if the Code of Conduct torch were picked up again by those who brought it forth earlier in the year, namely Councilwoman Culver and Councilman Jones, the Code would not pass a vote in this council even though they appear to be in some sick and twisted love fest at the moment. 

Councilman White thinks he is above reproach and has said as much, and he is also afraid of it becoming some fictitious political tool to be used against him.  Hells my blog is more of a political tool than that Code of Conduct would have been.  Councilwoman Spillyards doesn’t want it because former Mayor Pro Tem Red Byboth told her she didn’t want one.  Councilman Nathan Scott doesn’t want one, well, for obvious reasons, because the man was arrested for beating on his wife.  Mayor Hogue put himself on the panel to work on it when it was brought forward because I suspect that he wanted to orchestrate its demise.  In the end, after sitting through several meetings on the Code I never got the feeling he was serious about passing one.  From the tone of his input, I got the overwhelming feeling he would make it so confusing and convoluted that nobody could possibly vote for it or worse yet, the lawyer would advise Council that it was unacceptable and the issue would drop.  Should the Code of Conduct be brought up again and actually make it to vote, I would caution readers to take a keen interest in whether it passes or not.  Clearly, Wylie Councilmembers who vote no for a Code of Conduct should be studied with a fine tooth comb.

There are no good reasons why the City of Wylie does not have a Code of Conduct other than the citizens of Wylie have been paid lip service with regard to one. I don’t know about you but I would feel a whole lot more comfortable knowing there is a Code in place when we have a person capable of physical acts of violence on council.  I would feel a whole lot more comfortable knowing there is a Code in place when we have people on council who don’t bother responding to citizens.  I would feel a whole lot more comforted knowing our Council has to hold themselves to standards similar to those they enforce upon the employees.  It’s time this Council did something to help all of the citizens of Wylie rather than focus on their personal pet projects which benefit select members of society. 

Vote Ted Cruz

I voted today, how about you?  

I exercised my civic duty and voted for all those candidates that I felt would do a good job for we the people.  

Do I care to tell readers who I voted for?  Not particularly but I will in the instance of the US Senate race because I have grave concerns about the quality of one of the candidate's character.

Last September, some local political groups sponsored a candidate forum.  All of the candidates were invited to attend but the David Dewhurst camp told us that he didn't have to show up for any events.  Their premise was that because he had raised so much money, it seems he would rather spend it in advertising.  Suffice to say, Dewhurst has shown up for very few debates during this election cycle.  He thought he would win without trying.  The runoff was a surprise to him and rather his supporters have spent inordinate amounts of cash on a very personal, televised smear campaign in order to finish the job.

Now I can't say that those nasty ads belong to Dewhurst, because they are not officially 'endorsed' by him.  But let's be honest about this, when people spend money on your behalf, they can be persuaded, to put it nicely, to do things or not do things.  Had Dewhurst been offended by the nasty ads being splayed about by supporters in his mud-slinging camp, he would have had those ads pulled.  Just give me a big fat freaking break if you think the attack ads are not supported by Dewhurst.  These ads take absolutely tenuous past interactions and attempt to weave them into some sort of illicit reality. 

That said, I don't care for Dewhurst because he clearly feels he will be able to swing in and buy the votes.  In my mind, this represents the same old arrogance that has existed in Washington DC for decades.  This prevailing attitude is the very essence that I want evaporated from our Federal Government.  

Conversely, we have a candidate that is the people's candidate.  He has more supporters than Dewhurst.  In fact, Dewhurst is being propelled forward by roughly 3000 very wealthy supporters in Texas.  Cruz has supporters in every one of the 50 states.  Cruz's support is far reaching.  

When a candidate is being thrust upon the voters by a relatively small, elite group of people, I would caution voters to consider who that candidate is beholden to.  It certainly won't be we the people.

If you want to read the facts regarding the fabrications being spewn across the television airwaves, you can read up here:

It is clear that David Dewhurst is out of touch with the real working class and will bring his elitist ideals with him.    These are the reasons why I voted for Ted Cruz.

Land of Milk and Honey

Our City Council is a collective piece of work.  I mean, in what community the size of ours would you find a group of citizens mounting the backsides of their Council and riding them hard in order to get them to focus on their constituents’ wants and needs?  In what community would you find a group of citizens studying the budget and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) because they know the budget must be right-sized and if the leaders in the city are unwilling to exert the time and effort then citizens will?   

Most community members are merely along for the ride, not troubling themselves too much with the dirty details.  Someone has to do it, and better to let the elected officials figure it all out.  Just give me some parks and keep your dumb ordinances away and it’s all good. Well it’s not all good in Wylie at the moment because our taxes are ridiculous and we are not getting anything worthy of it. Oh there is that Rec Center and baseball diamonds.  Not enough.

Shouldn’t you see your City Officials as working sort of hand in hand with you, the Joe Plummer of Wylie?  Don’t most citizens wrangle with the idea of a group of highly compensated lobbyists in DC who are able to finagle their will upon the politicians by tossing them cold hard cash?

Journey back in time and think about the Tea Partiers and how they marched in DC and other cities and demanded that everyday voices be heard, AND taken seriously?  No matter what you think of the Tea Party people, they are nothing more than angry taxpayers who believe it is time for someone to start waking up those in charge because they have been allowing their pipe dreams to infiltrate reality.

Though I find myself not so in tune with the Tea Party people any longer because I don’t particularly care for the Sarah Palin’s and Ron Paul’s of the world, I do see their overall point.  As a Joe Plummer of Wylie, I believe it’s time to get the leaders out of the political race that have forgotten their constituents.  Ya us, those little people known as the taxpayers.  It’s time our leaders work hand and hand with the little people.

Believe me, if we could recall every person on our City Council, we would.  Unfortunately, of these Wylieites that Mayor so lovingly states are engaged and active in the city, nobody worth their salt is standing up to run for Council and we keep getting the same cast of rotating undereducated church members, former mayoral pals, and boards and commission members skating figure eights through the election process.  I know a lot of Joe Plummers in Wylie who are angry as hell, but I don’t see any of them stepping up to run for City Council.  Wylie is not full of engaged people as Mayor likes to tout.  Wylie is full of bunches of people who don’t give a shit, about anything, and it shows.  Believe me it shows.  Just take a drive up and down the streets of Wylie and see what so-called engaged people look like. 

Certainly we have some soccer moms and baseball dads, a couple HOA groups, and those dance moms but overall, these are the people interested in their kids and the schools.  These people moved here because of the schools, not because of what the City Council was pimping.  I suppose there must be something said for our Wylie ISD trustees, though I have been a bit hard on them in the past.  Without WISD, I do not believe there would be anything else of intrinsic value drawing the people to move to Wylie.  Do you?  At this juncture, the schools are not enough.  Do you think people are going to move to Wylie just because they have a Ross and a Petsmart? We don't have high income jobs, that is for certain.  Wylie can toot their horn at bringing new jobs to the area but minimum wage retail and restaurant jobs will not support anything but low income housing.  Thankfully a hospital may help that somewhat, but it is too little too late.

We discovered that calling ourselves Wide Awake Wylie did not conjure up any warm and fuzzy feelings, rather the contrary.  So we now call ourselves the City between the lakes, yet go down to those lakes and I dare say, find yourself some type of draw that would bring people with money here.  Can you find anything?  Collin Park is a decent enough park but it is private, costs money to get in, and they are out of money and no longer sponsor those boat races and fishing tournaments like they used to.  The marinas are OK, but are nothing compared to Rockwall or Lewisville or even Texoma.  Why have we not capitalized on the lakes?  If the City really wanted to draw in some tax dollars, they would need to embrace some bars, restaurants, and some real estate in the form of big-ass houses and ritzy condos that overlook the lakes and provide the purchase-power peeps some views worth plunking down the big bucks for.  These lakes have been staring us in the face for decades yet they sit idle.  Why have we ignored them?  Rather, we fall back on the old adage that we must deal with that ominous entity called Corps of Army Engineers.  If Rockwall and Lewisville could do it, why didn’t we?

Capitalizing on Lake Lavon seems eons away. I suppose I will have to be happy with our small pittance in that we just might be able to right-size our budget this year.  I must be happy with the one tiny iota of hope in that we may finally have the attention of our City leaders.  It has not been easy getting here, and though we have not arrived quite yet, I suspect all things budget will begin to fall together and gel into something a little more reasonable than the original outcry in June of a $173K shortfall.  Yes, in the land of milk and honey, all seem destined to be right in the world. 

On Tuesday night, Wylie City Manager Mindy Manson will be allowed to refinance her bonds, in loose layman’s terms, and buy those two dubious Quints.  You know, those are the large as hell trucks we see rolling down the road for every emergency call.  It is not like we didn’t need them, um let’s say 6 years ago but hey, evidently the money is growing on trees in Wylie and suddenly and we have the money to buy all $1.5M worth by going into more debt. Yes, your City Manager has the ability to issue certificates of obligation without asking the taxpayers to approve. 

Also on the agenda for Tuesday night’s Wylie City Council meeting is another tiresome budget work session.  I hear tell they will be discussing the idea of giving taxpayers a decrease.  Well I should say so.  I suspect as part of the slated work session a $.01 cent decrease will be discussed but it really ought to be $.02 cents.  The amount of taxes Wylie’s citizens pay should be an outright crime, right up there with a new storefront in Chicago called Blago’s Bodies for Sale.  Oh I’m sure the Wylie View crowd will whine about their monthly pizza worth of tax break, but these are the same people that will whine and bemoan just about anything.   

I suspect if I bothered to study the regulars on that rag, I would be able to pick them out at City Council or Boards and Commissions meetings.  It seems the same old, same old are what have always existed in Wylie which is why we are becoming the discount store, low-income capital of North Texas.  There is no originality in thought or deeds and these are the same people dragging our city down by applauding every new Habitat for Humanity Home and every low-income housing and postage size lot with cheap homes project Don Herzog Development rams at them.  If you are looking for upscale, you might want to downsize that idea to 100+ more homes crammed into Woodbridge because that is what you are more likely to find.

Honestly, a $.01 cent tax decrease represents roughly a quarter of a million cost to the City, so double that would certainly be doable. The money exists in one form or another in our budget.  There is this nifty rainy day fund floating around and I hear tell that our City had more in there than the 25% that was required in last year’s budget meetings. 

Remember back to when I pointed out just how important it was to keep at least 25% of our total budget in a rainy day fund so that we do not lose our bond rating? This came about last year during the budget cycle when our City Manager requested the advice from an independent party.  Not only did Mommio and Daddio keep that 25% in the kettle, they cooked up several million more to add.  Like pouting children, our City leaders are now stirring that kettle and complaining that we ‘made’ them keep that money in there rather than spend it.  Honestly.  That is tantamount to a pouting child who was misbehaving at dinner and sent to their room, only to start a hunger strike and never eat again.  Seems like a self-deprecating, form of self-punishment.  Imagine an apoplectic Mayor Hogue puffing out, “Fine, if we can’t spend the money because eyes are upon us, and because spending is always preferable, we’ll just make less money available and really show them.” Such ridiculous platitudes.  I want to know, who does an attitude like that benefit?

If there are extra monies coupled with the 25%, they cannot be used for recurring expenses, such as pay raises.  It is money that is not ‘routine’ in the budget.  However the extra funds can be used for new fixed assets, say like those menacing Quints.  In fact, I made a prediction during the election season that we did indeed have the money to do all those things we wanted to do.  You would have a long search back through my ramblings, but I did state that I could cut that budget and come up with the raises, the extra police bodies, fix that nasty old police station, buy the Quints, and provide a tax break to the citizens.  Why?  Because we have the highest tax rate in all of North Texas and a Council that allows expenses to meet revenue and has spent little time cutting to the bone. 

It seems that now, perhaps finally, our budget will be right sized, though we will take on more debt to do it which is a bad plan.  I would caution that it took a lot of citizen participation, interaction, and blogging to get these people off their dead asses.  If what it takes to get the people’s will done is to install straps to the backsides of our Council and administration, then that is what we will do.....and the milk and honey will flow.

Meet Ted Cruz!

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Proper Cosmic Order

As every budget meeting progresses with the Wylie City Council, I am growing more and more concerned about the fiduciary responsibility some of our councilmembers hold.  I am concerned that this responsibility is being taken entirely too lightly and personal desires are getting in the way of sound judgment.

I am seeing disturbing patterns if fiscal irresponsibility such as supporting WASA, Wylie’s Advocates for Senior Activities with taxpayer dollars, supporting the Arts Council against all logic, supporting the youth rather than focusing on the budget, and supporting ideas of refinancing bonds in order to take on more debt.  Such is what Wylie ISD just did to us by a group of Trustees and Superintendent that hold their conservative cross as high as they can overhead.  They steered us woefully wrong in the debt department and with WISD it all stems back to the bitter battle of one school, splitting schools, and freshman center and some really crappy decisions made by past Trustees and Superintendent about it all.  Yet our current Trustees and Super are merely continuing down that same slippery slope of spend and saddle the debt up.  The scene is the same, just the names of changed.

To be honest, I am wondering if the only one who has it right on Council is Councilman Rick White who supports our fire and police because personally, THAT is where I want to see our money go.  To those that protect us but also is should be given back to the taxpayers who deserve a freaking tax break already, for God’s sake.   

Refinancing bonds to take on more debt is anything but a fiscally conservative stance and I am saddened that it was supported most vehemently by a handful of highly visible, self-proclaimed conservatives in leadership positions within Wylie.  If you are a conservative, and you supported taking on more debt at the moment, you honestly need to sit down and reassess your thought process.  This issue is at the very heart of our battle over the Presidential race at the moment and if you don’t like the trillions of dollars of debt we have in this nation and you supported taking on millions of dollars in debt locally, then you might be experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance right about now.   If you think debting up is the answer, well then you had better hop on the Obama train because I think it is about to leave the station. 

Sadly, this time last year Council fell head over heels in love with this Contingency Fund idea that Finance Director Linda Bantz and City Manager Mindy Manson brought forth.  It was an easy out.  It removed all culpability from the conservatives on Council in order to kiss the City employees butts and give them their 2% bonus, and it got the citizens off their backs about taking money from the Rainy Day Fund.  Yet this Contingency Fund seems to be some sort of make-believe fund whose existence in the audited document called a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report or CAFR is missing.  We hear reference to this Contingency thingy but no real proof of its existence.  We heard from City staff recently something about it being like a 3 legged stool and not being able to provide a total balance amount and nobody on Council bothered to delve into that? It sort of looks like the money came from the same place to be honest, but investigation beyond what is merely presented to them by staff is obviously not our Council's forte.

Let me make a side note here that people tend to lump Councilman Bennie Jones in with the fiscal conservatives, but I should remind you that he never ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility. He ran on a platform of improving the life of our youth and that appears to be his main, if not only focus at the moment.

I think back to this time last year and I watched the fiscal conservative swagger of Councilwoman Diane Culver and Councilman David Goss and a couple powerful admonishments by both of them to City Manager Mindy Manson about the bonus vs. permanent raise vs. tax break to citizens topic.  If you pull the tapes from last budget season, you will hear Culver saying quite clearly to Manson during a meeting that she had better not come back next year (now the current budget season) and ask for a permanent raise for employees without coming back and giving a tax break to the citizens.  You will hear Goss saying we shouldn't be looking at giving the employees a 2% bonus when we have to take the money from the rainy day fund in order to do it, and if employees want to leave because of it, well there's the door.  In fact, you will also hear Councilman Jones state that he felt bad for the employees but he too has been working on no raise for 4 years with the City of Dallas and his bent was the employees need to be thankful they have jobs at the moment.  

I am concerned by these statements made last year as they don’t seem to fall in line with what I am witnessing this year.  Up until now in this budget cycle I have not heard about any sizeable tax break for citizens, which was all the rage during last year’s budget sessions, and also this year’s campaign season.  Where is Bubba Scott right about now?  He promised handfuls of people headed in to vote that he would give them a tax decrease.  He changed his platform when he ran against Catherine Butschek in order to combat her platform of decreasing taxes.  Will you find a tax decrease proposed by him now? Highly doubtful.

In all fairness to Council at the moment, I have yet to find spare time to listen to last Tuesday’s meeting  and perhaps I will gain further insight into where the fiscal conservatives stand, but up until now I have heard quite the opposite fiscal responsibility stance out of all of Council and it is cause for great concern.  I think this blog post is relevant as an attempt to show them the possibly folly the conservatives on council may step into should they support the spend and debt plan our City Manager seems hell bent on proposing.  Perhaps our council members who ran on fiscal responsibility and accountability need to be put back in the proper cosmic order of things. 

I am growing concerned about a group of Wylie Councilmembers who have branded themselves as conservatives but seem to be floundering and flailing about at the moment.  I have not witnessed any strong leadership skills during the meetings, no strong admonishments,  Nothing.  I hope when I view last Tuesday’s meeting that I will be able to come back and report some semblance of rallying on the part of these conservatives for if not, they should be contacted by all of their supporters and reminded of the fiscal conservative platforms they have placed themselves upon in the past.

Point of No Return

I found some very telling information in the last budget work session that took place Saturday morning.  It seems a fair amount of time was spent attempting to refute my previous blog posts.  While I am certainly happy I hold such a presence even though I don’t sit on council, I am quite disturbed at the larger picture that began to unfold like a used napkin blowing in the wind:

·        The numbers presented in the June 12, 2012 work session were a supposed “snapshot” of where they were in the budget process according to City Manager Mindy Manson.  Evidently her presentation harbored some erroneous data and she is now changing her tune.  Shall I remind readers that the presentation held a slide showing 1% decreases to Police and Fire and 5 Furlough days?  The claim is made that the slide referenced the previous year’s plan.  Oh, so we are to believe they were going to take those actions this time last year?  Hmmmm….. Disturbingly, I was at the previous year’s work sessions on the budget and I don’t recall seeing that foil as any type of plan a year ago, in fact if it had been why on earth would they have fought so hard to give the employees a 2% bonus last year?  Keep tracking with me.

·        Mindy Manson and the Creative Finance Department presented a $173K shortfall 3 weeks ago which made the headlines of the Wylie News and suddenly, this meeting Manson and her minions were able to find that plus a little something something to a total windfall of $590K.  In fact according to Mindy they, “Were able to bridge that gap and then some.” Let me get this straight, this shortfall makes headline status in the newspaper but there is no mention of future scrubbing to offset this sort of torrid announcement?  Shameful.  Manson suddenly found $763K in the budget by “scrubbing it” as she likes to call it?  Interesting.  That was quite some luffah.

·        If your City Manager began last year’s budget process suggesting decreases and furloughs and ended it with providing a 2% bonus, isn’t there something wrong with that picture?  In fact, if your City Manager began this year’s budget process suggesting a shortfall and ends with a windfall and permanent 2 ½% pay increases for all staff, doesn’t that make you equally as uncomfortable with a sort of oscillating trend?   

·        They iterate that in no way has staff considered decreasing pay or furlough days or tax increases for this coming budget.  Why then was that slide in the June 12th presentation?  Is there a reason for such carelessness? I don’t know about you but right about now I’m sort of thinking our City Manager needs to get her shit together a little better.

·        Suddenly we have the money to fund the Narcotics Squad, fund additional marketing and branding, and also give a 2 ½% permanent pay increase to all staff.  We went from a shortfall to be able to make sure Mindy can increase her pay for giving us such good work on the budget.  Oh staff looked for a 5% increase but they could only come up with a 2 ½% pay increase.  So how did we go from showing old presentations of 1% pay decreases to broad and sweeping 2 ½% pay increases in a matter of 3 weeks?

·        Staff and City Council members did their damndest to dissuade anyone from believing the CAFR holds any real value, yet I don’t know of any company in the real business world who can get insurance or open a commercial account at a bank or vendor without providing, um, you guessed it, their financials.  In fact, audited financials are required to open up a corporate American Express account.  Will they accept a ‘budget’?  Um, no.  Yup, audited financials are THAT important because they are real numbers. Looking to real, trackable numbers to forecast from would make more sense than fudging numbers.  In fact, our fiscal year at work has ended and I am working on setting up the FY2013 forecasts and guess what I use to forecast?  Their actuals.  So if the only actuals I had were from the 2010 budget, guess I would be taking them into consideration. So when Bubba Scott, this alleged financial adviser, drones on about making the clarification that they are two very different documents, um duh.  Every idiot knows there is a difference and this group of concerned citizens is wondering why an audited financial document would be discounted so vehemently by the gang of 7 on council. Does Bubba even know why he is opening his chubby cheeks? Then again, as Treasurer of WASA, Wylie's Aged Sagging Amateurs, he got away with absconding $13K from the City of Wylie without having to open up one financial for viewing.  Guess Bubba Scott is charmed like dat.

·        Only Mayor Eric Hogue and one City Council member, Councilman Bennie Jones, bothered to meet with the group of concerned citizens that is investigating the City’s numbers.  I was passed these numbers and though a small error was found in them yesterday with the percentage of increase over the last 3 years in sales tax, there are other items of notable question and worth a looksee. Sadly, I see 5 other Councilmembers who appear, to this group of citizens, to be refusing to sit down and discuss the numbers with them.  Why?  Is it because they are God smacked?  Is it because they don’t want to do the work?  Is it because they don’t understand what they are looking at to begin with?  Is it because they don’t give a crap about their constituents?  It’s hard to determine the answer to that but at last contact, I heard only Mayor Hogue and Councilman Jones have met with members of this group. To be honest, there are only two reasons for Mayor to take an interest and I am fine with both reasons because at least he is doing what he was elected to do.  Reason one, if this group’s numbers are even remotely correct, it would behoove mayor to be on the winning side of that argument.  Reason two, if the group’s numbers are wrong, he can say that he did his due diligence and investigated the questions to the fullest.  The fact that Mayor even bothered to investigate, to be honest raises him in my estimation.  Good on Hogue.  In fact I give Hogue and Jones a ton of credit for looking into the matter rather than holding up a book called Budget and thumping it like it is their Bible.    

·        Of concern is that the other shoe has not dropped yet and the next discussion will be refinancing the bonds so the City of Wylie can take on even more debt and not only does everyone get a pay increase (which they desperately need) and our police and fire are staffed as they should be (which we desperately need), and we get the new big-ass quints (which our Fire Chief deserves), and we even have more money to toss at WASA, our favorite non-profit who refuses to show anyone their financials (who doesn’t deserve anything until they hand ‘em over), and nobody gets a tax increase (or perhaps we get a ½ cent decrease tossed at us like rank dogs jumping for a biscuit) all by taking on more debt.  Oh yippee!  Now everyone in Wylie can live in freaking lala land while it becomes the problem of future families who move here and future generations who might stay here.  Yes, Goss and Culver will leave after their terms are up.  Jones will get his youth thing going to finish his ‘unfinished business’ and then move closer to work after his stint is up, Hogue will attempt to move on to bigger and better, maybe trying to take the seat away from State Representative, Jodie Laubenberg whom he keeps close tabs on, and the Whites, Spillyards, and Bubba Scotts will move on without a thought as to how Wylie’s future is mortgaged.  As any fiscal conservative should be, I am concerned about taking on more debt and it is the very thing I argue against with regard to our Federal Government.  In fact, though people are going to cast mean-spirited looks at me next time I am in the school because it is such an unpopular idea, it was the very thing that made me vote against the WISD Bonds, even though I knew the administration would finagle them to pass with an extra helping of teacher votes.  Debt is an insidious monster no matter how cheap money is to lend and it is the devil that will bite us in the backside when we hit the point of no return. If you are walking around town wearing your 'I am a Conservative' button proudly on your lapel and voting to take on more debt regardless of how sweet that dealio looks, I think you need to go back to church and ask your Maker for forgiveness for you know not what you do.

·        I’ve got a feeling we are headed for the point of no return and I have already been made aware of several families that have put their homes up for sale rather than deal with our ridiculous City Leaders decisions and our outrageous tax rate.  Sadly, rather than reduce what Wylie’s citizens are paying, rather than hold Wylie’s citizens in its bosom, it appears the group of 7 individuals on council have gelled together and are of the same arrogant mind.  The majority of this Council would rather not bother themselves with a foreign idea of understanding why their City Manager came to them 3 weeks ago with a shortfall and is now presenting them the garden of honey and roses.  They would rather not deal with a group of concerned citizens.  They would rather not stand behind the principals they ran on and spewed while they were stumping for their campaigns.  As I see it, the answer is simple:  7 people need to use their brains and grow a pair of integrity rather than sit on them.

Send in the Clowns

We opened up our newspaper a couple weeks ago to see the headline of a $173K shortfall in the Wylie News.  We see the budget presentations by City Manager Mindy Manson.  We wonder, how can one group of people believe in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), an audited finalization of actual numbers, and Council believe in the budget presentation.  What does all this hoopla mean to us?

To be honest, I have a theory.  I believe what is really taking place here is that Mindy Manson wants to refinance our bonds.  OK, OK, so what’s the big dealio?  I mean, our Wylie Independent School District did it.  Yup, they suckered the people into providing them with the affirmative vote to take on more debt.  I heard from a Councilmember that currently the City of Wylie’s debt stands about $150M.  That is One hundred fifty million dollars!  For a City the size of Wylie, that’s pretty high.  Imagine refinancing our bonds and taking on more debt so our taxes won’t be raised, just like WISD did to us.  That’s just plain crazy talk.

As citizens, we should think long and hard about taking on more debt.  Isn’t that one of the largest complaints we have about Washington DC?  Why would we want to follow in their footsteps? 

As a fiscal conservative, taking on more debt is a bad, bad plan and I have to say I am opposed.  Shouldn’t we hold our Councilmembers, some who claim to be conservative, accountable for this decision?  Whether it makes good sense to borrow money at lower cost or not, debt is an insidious master.  It seems someone has sent in the clowns.

Factual Actual vs. Fudget Budget (corrected sales tax average)

I was only able to pop in to the Wylie City Council Budget Work Session for a few minutes this morning.  The spousal unit’s brother and his family are in town from New York City so time is our master at the moment.

This afternoon, I had a few minutes of downtime during the rain and was able to whiz through the meeting as it is online. 

What I noticed is a bunch of explanations for spending, silliness over Parks and Rec as well as City cell phone bills, the same message of needs from Police and Fire, but nothing that addresses salaries and the 2 to 1 -401K matching that I think needs to be revisited instead of making other cuts.  I also think they need to visit this little thing called a Long Term Investment Fund in which they had $62M in the last CAFR but as of the March presentation it was down to $54M.  The City of Wylie is investing taxpayer dollars?  With what authority? What happened to $8M dollars then?  Don’t we get an explanation for its loss?

I knew Mayor Eric Hogue would be prepared to orchestrate a mass burial of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report or CAFR toward the end of the meeting.  He is so good at burying things he doesn’t want to come out and shutting down people when he sees too much information will be spilled.  It came as no surprise that a perfectly timed comment from City Manager Mindy Manson was made toward the end of the meeting as most people had left already, dismissing the CAFR as old because numbers from last year have not been certified yet.  The stage was then set to attempt to prove that the CAFR is insignificant and Master Mayor Puppeteer set his little marionette Bubba Scott in motion to try to show how the CAFR is old.  Oh it's so old, dirt was created after it.  Ya right.  I could have set my watch by this attempt to bury the CAFR.  I could have even placed a bet on it.  Mayor is nothing if not consistent.

A couple citizens came up to speak.  In my opinion, the last citizen’s comments were the most poignant.  With my own TXun spin on it, what I believe she pointed out is that all the subliminal messages being spread by meeting participants during this final planned group CAFR thuggery were a bit “misleading”.   

The orchestration proceeded as follows:  Councilman David Goss spoke up in attempting to get a better look at the CAFR numbers in relation to the presented budget, Linda Bantz put on the Teflon and slid it off of her, Citizen Cane pointed out how misleading it all was thus lobbing the ball back at the City, then Mindy Manson clarified and tried to relieve the CAFR from any real authority, of course a well-rehearsed Bubba Scott piped in because he just has to listen to himself talk, and then it happened.  Wait for it, wait for it.  When discussing the CAFR, Mindy Manson stated, “There is absolutely a relationship.”  Tada!  There it is. 

There is a relationship.  There is a relationship between CAFRs over the years as well.  They show definite trends of upward or downward movement and according to the budget presentation, Manson is attempting to show the movement for retail sales tax as suddenly dropping off.  

If the last three CAFRs show an average of 9.5% increase each year in retail sales tax (corrected by the individual who presented me with this information) and Manson’s current presentation shows only 8% increase in retail sales tax this year and 6% for next year, do you buy that?  I certainly don’t.  I don’t buy into that because we have had 200+ homes built here in Wylie each of those years and expect 200+ more next.  That means that in the last 3 years, plus our current year, we have brought in 800 new households.  That is 800 more housefuls of people spending money in Wylie and this time next year there will be another 200 households.  

I don't buy into less sales tax increase because of the fact that the cost of goods has increased dramatically over the last year and is expected to increase.  That means the goods cost more to buy and more taxes are paid on them.

Additionally, we have a Target, optical, beds, Aldi (though small they do sell some taxable items), and new fast food restaurants out the wazoo that we didn’t have 3 years ago.  They came online over the last three years.  We are expecting a theatre, a hospital, Ross, Rack Room Shoes, and more restaurants coming online.  Though I’m sure they were given sweet tax abatement deals from the WEDC to get here, they are still contributing to the tax purse.  Do you still believe our sales tax revenue increase will be considerably lower than the last 3 years? Oh it's still going up, but it's going up less.  Strange concept since Wylie's growth has not leveled off with regard to new businesses being built yet.  When Wylie becomes built out and all the businesses that are going to be here are here, only then will you see a leveling out.

Manson is claiming her numbers are coming off of the current budget and that won’t be certified for quite some time, yet there is a relationship with the CAFR.  What she murmured indicated fully that there is a track, there is a relationship of upward or downward movement from CAFR to CAFR supposedly correlating with her budget presentations and it is indeed pretty steady.  Manson’s 5 little words about pissed Mayor off.

Suddenly, a snide and snippety Mayor McCheese stated rather gruffly, “We are getting off departmental budgets.”  Of course, then it ended and everything was shut down by Mayor.   

What I saw today was the continuing theme of our Wylie Council, City Manager Mindy Manson, and Finance Director Linda Bantz who are all discounting the CAFR.  Well of course it isn’t current numbers, that is obvious if it is an accounting document audited in September 2011, but it is the only hard and fast actuals we have to go on, making it relevant.

Consider what Council just attempted to show us today, that the CAFR is a useless piece of rubbish that is so old it is nullified.  However I challenge readers to use some common sense.  If the numbers in the CAFR are from the 2009/2010 budget year, we had much less retail sales tax revenue then, about 400 less homes then, and much higher expense because we had not started to cut spending from the downturn in the economy.  For Council to make one grand gesture, sweeping the CAFR under the carpet as irrelevant is a bit like when my dog hides under the bed but yet her back-end is still sticking out.  Just cuz she can’t see us doesn’t mean we can’t see her.

Imagine All the People and Money

Imagine, if you will, a Wylie City Council member being handed foils from a PowerPoint presentation by City Manager Mindy Manson.  The foils are quite basic as foils go; a pie chart, a bar chart, some tables and text.

Imagine your Council Member looking at the numbers presented to them.  Do they accept the numbers because the City Manger and Finance Department signed off on them?  Do they question them?

Now imagine just one council member asking Manson the question, "Where did you get this number from?"  Manson should be able to explain it.  Would Manson explain it if she were not asked?  In a word, no.

In all actuality, Manson's job is to answer Council's questions and never to provide any additional details.  As a City Manager, would you put additional information into the hands of a group of people who you are pretty certain don't know how to read the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)?  I'm pretty positive she thinks the six people sitting on council do not have any financial background and the seventh person who allegedly does, can't seem to hold down a job in that field for very long. 

Consider the fact that we voted these people in office.  Would you expect your City Council to be able to read a financial report and compare it to a preliminary budget and be able to ask the City Manager where she got her projections from?  Would it stand to reason that if you held the job of City Manager for 13 years, you would have a wealth of experience and knowledge with which to make fairly accurate projections?   

I am highly concerned that the theme presenting itself in this budget season and those in the past, is that a group of individuals who were voted in mistakenly hold the opinion that if we pay our City Manager well over $100K annually, that she must know what she is doing with the budget.  Yet if we examine the past, when we consider the vote that took place when our City Council handed taxpayer funds taken out of this fictitious Contingency Fund (which does not exist on paper or in the CAFR) to WASA without viewing their financials or properly vetting them, we find that when the City Manager and Director of Finance were asked, how much money is in the Contingency Fund, the answer was, "I don't know."  We got a story about a three legged stool or some such nonsense.  Did any Councilmember tell her to find out?  No. 

I recently sent an email to all of our City Council asking them to address the questions I posed several blog posts ago.  My main challenge to them wasn't all that difficult.  I asked what steps they plan to take to find out how the City Manager arrived at her numbers and ultimately their answer would show whether they even understand what was presented to them on June 12th.  

I received a verbal response from Councilwoman Diane Culver who is meeting with the City Manager and only Councilman Jones replied via email and said he planned to investigate it to the fullest because it is his job as a council member. Councilman David Goss responded that he needed another day or two to get me answers.  Let me just point out here that it is a matter of public record that I made the request and a matter of public record that only three council members replied.  Do you think it is perfectly acceptable for our Councilmembers and Mayor to ignore an emailed question from a citizen?  This is highly unprofessional, especially from a peer we voted in to represent fiduciary responsibility on our behalf.   

It would appear that we have some fuzzy figuring going on and only two people willing to educate themselves on the budget process and look into it.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the budget, it just takes a Councilmember that actually cares about their constituents and feels beholden to them.   

Free Radical

To me the word radical evokes memories of bare-chested women burning their bras when I was a young girl in the 70s.  The word radical evokes falling down stoners rolling in the mud at Woodstock.  The word radical evokes memories of that Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Afred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City in 1995.   

I am certainly nowhere near those examples I listed above, however I was reminded by my better half what the word radical really means.  It is derived from the Latin radix, meaning root.   From the root. To me it means not embracing the status quo.   Without so-called radicals in our history, women wouldn’t be able to vote, Africans would still be shipped in as slaves, and we wouldn’t have the telephone. There would be no planes, trains, or automobiles and the United States wouldn’t even exist were it not for a radical who refused to believe the earth was flat. 

Some rather famous people considered radical are:  Mark Twain, Malcolm X, Henry Ford, Christopher Columbus, Glenn Beck, Howard Stern, John Muir, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Nader, Gloria Steinem, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rush Limbaugh, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Franklin Roosevelt, Jane Addams, W.E.B. DuBois, Charlotte Perkins Gilmer, Bill Moyers, Laura Ingraham, Thurgood Marshall, Cesar Chavez, Lech Walesa, Michael Moore, and Ann Coulter.  Each of these people has left or is in the process of leaving a legacy behind them.  What makes these people considered radical is that they refused to embrace status quo.  Some are conservative, some are liberal, but all believe vehemently in their cause.

I admit it here and now.  I was wrong.  I take back what I wrote the other day about being a radical.  If I would be so lucky as to be lumped in with the list of people above, I would be deeply honored.  If my opinions, beliefs and desire to see a better Wylie for all citizens makes me a wild-eyed radical, and if wanting to see a prosperous future for our children represents being a radical, then sign me up on the dotted line because I will be in tremendous company.