Just how should parking revenues be spent?

28 Aug

Yesterday I hauled out of here at 7:45, and I mean hauled ass.  I can never get out of here in the morning, always have to go back for something, bike lock, ink pen, notebook, whatever. Just getting out my driveway can take me 20 minutes. If I’m lucky I don’t get halfway up the street and then realize I’m still wearing my pajama top.

I made the 8:00 Finance Committee meeting at about 8:04, having achieved flight somewhere under the freeway overpass, screeching into my chair just as Brian Nakamura and some other $taffers were taking their seats, and  Mark Sorensen was calling the meeting to order.

I had gone down there to ask some questions about the parking fund.  I find these meetings are the best time to ask questions, as long as they are relatively on topic. I must say, despite my feelings about their obese salaries, Chris Constantin and Frank Fields seem competent and are cooperative.  They give me an answer when I ask. The only part I have to figure out is, which question to ask.

Yesterday I wanted to know, what salaries are paid out of Downtown parking revenues, or Fund 853. I saw in the reports that fund takes in a little over a million a year – that’s just coin from Downtown parking meters – Whoa Nelly!

I also saw, half that fund goes to salaries and benefits, and I wondered – that can’t be just the parking meter crew. No, it’s not. Mark Sorensen mentioned, they take $120,000 for a cop, and no, he’s not assigned Downtown.

Well, I must say, that’s questionable. And that was the topic – just what should the city be able to do with the parking revenues. Fields, speaking on behalf of Constantin who is out of town til Sept 9, wants direction on that. It’s not his job to set policy, he’s just there to give us the facts. The fact is, we’ve been spending money “loosey goosey” (yes, that term has made it’s way permanently into the finance lexicon), and the Finance Department is asking council to put some limits on various funds, make some rules about spending.

Oh my geeshy sakes, isn’t that just Rocket Science! 

I know, we’ve heard this before, months ago. It’s not staff’s fault here, Constantin has been asking for direction, telling council they need to come up with new budget policies. Council has been moving like sap in Winter. I keep going to these meetings, months apart, and hearing the same conversation.  At one meeting, Constantin said departments had all been spending money without Finance Department oversight, and then just handing the bills to the Finance Department. Also, historically, whatever a department spent became their budget for the next year, encouraging departments to spend more to get more.  This is called “rollover,” and Fields says that while it’s really not a good way to run your finances, it’s “become the norm in government, I’m not sure why…”

Well, Frank is being too nice here. I know why, cause I remember an article in Tim Bousquet’s paper, years ago, about a lady named Jan who worked at the college. She said her boss had bought an enormous, gorgeous teak desk one year with what otherwise would have  become a “budget surplus,” meaning, their budget would have been cut. Rather than take a budget cut, this man bought himself a grandiose desk, at the taxpayers’ expense. This has become “the norm” in government.

And don’t forget, budget surpluses can also be taken as bonus by the department head – watch that episode of the office, where Staff is divided over buying new chairs or a new copy machine, and Michael “solves” the argument by taking the surplus as a bonus and buying himself a pimp jacket.

I have to get to work around my house now, I’ll pick this up later. 

Later:  Since I last posted, I have got a bunch of figures from Frank Fields, regarding the parking fund (853) but I haven’t had a chance to look them over. I also got some figures for the park fund (050) and wow, that’s a can of worms. I will get back after I’ve read over those documents – today  I am working out of town.

Later Later: Well, the documents Frank was so nice to provide me didn’t tell me anything really new – just kind of answered my suspicions.  Nor did he give me a document that I can cut and paste or figure out how to post in any way for you – I’ll work on it. Suffice to say, yes, they pay too many salaries out of the parking fund, salaries that, I’m sorry, have NOTHING to  do with providing anybody parking. 

What stunk about this meeting was, they have had the same discussion in front of me several times now, over months – and years previous with Hennessy – but nothing changes.  Staff certainly seems willing to have new rules for spending money – they don’t want to take the blame for the mess we’re in, they want to make sure we all know they are at the behest of council. So, the problem – the head of this stinking fish – is COUNCIL.

Furthermore, I’m blaming the two who told us they’d bring “fiscal conservatism” to this council – Sorensen and Morgan.   These two, especially Morgan, who is an ass, are doing nothing but fiddling our money away. They both signed another set of contracts agreeing to pay the employee’s share. With Morgan completed embedded at Chico PD (he brags constantly about going on frequent “ride-alongs” with his personal friend CPOA president Peter Durfee), I don’t see this changing anytime soon. We will continue to pay whatever the cops hold their hand out for as long as Morgan has anything to say about it.   Sorensen is way too friendly with the Chamber crowd. We’ll never get our financial house in order with Sorensen and Morgan handing out our taxes to their friends.

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