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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Buck Stops Where?

Well, this is interesting. In the Lafayette News the spotlights on candidate Laura Oster and current Councilor/candidate Kerry Bensman include the now obligatory question of City Administrator Gary Klapahke's performance. While Laura admits to needing to learn the details, Kerry lays out a quick list of financial missteps that apparently put the city into crisis.

This is not sarcastic, but a real question I don't know the answer to: To what extent were Gary's decisions ones that required a Council approval? I know Kerry voted against some financial incentives; I still say if people chose for good reasons not to shop WalMart they wouldn't get any of the $2.3 million kickback, but that's just one topic. Other decisions on where to allocate money etc. - who signs off on it? How do such glaring issues slide through?

Kerry's points cannot be dismissed out of hand, although the primacy of this issue as a campaign strategy is unappealing enough for me to look elsewhere with my votes. It's not shooting the messenger, it's just asking who the message is really from.

So I'm just askin', as usual.

1 comment:

KERRY BENSMAN said...

Dan,

First of all, congratulations on your participation in the "Dancing With the Stars." That was really a courageous and neat thing to do.

As for my comments about what goes on at city hall. Do you want to know? Should the voters know? Should it be a campaign issue? Should the city government be held accountable?

Now I am somewhat befuddled that how airing how tax payer money is spent is a "verboten" topic. Seems to me fiscal responsibility and oversight is a primary responsibility of elected officials and the city government as a whole. Especially when it leads to cuts in city services. Everyone applauds when the proposed budget gets balanced. (It really isn't.) But little attention is made to the $1.4M or so of department recommends that were left on the floor. We even had to resurrect a measly $7000 cut in the Library's homework center.

As for how these deals "slip" through? First, they weren't negotiated correctly to begin with. The Cheese guys do not have to move into Lafayette Plaza EVER. I voted against the WalMart deal as did two others when we caught the language in the contract that DID NOT follow the briefing memo we had received earlier. The financial straits of the URA caused by the Albertsons move were never discussed by the city's URA director (I had to figure that one out on my own and I was not around when that was done.) Secondly, the council, which relies on full time, well-paid professionals, WASN'T TOLD. None of this in the staff reports.

The city council is typically composed of lay people who are not educated, trained, and experienced in the world of finance, contractual law, and business. These are business deals after all. And it takes a long time for a new council member to get to the point of even gaining a cursory knowledge of what is going on, but that is mostly from the city government, i.e. the fox is guarding the hen house.

As for WM, residents are shopping there. Existing businesses are being impacted, including the big boxes. The current EDA doesn't protect the city the way it could have. What is funny to me is that the Finance Director did the proposed budget as if the amendment I proposed was approved, which it wasn't. He also got the math wrong. He included no loss of existing business either.

As note that another $300,000 is being pulled from the OS funds to "balance" this budget. First time such a large amount.

Any way the die is cast. I wanted this to be a campaign issue. I knew the media focuses of elections. I sent the red flare up for all to see. Whether it helps me get votes or not, city hall will never be the same...unless it is allowed to.