Finance Committee meeting, Part 1: Round and round she goes, where she’ll stop, nobody knows…

13 Dec

This week I went to a couple of meetings, Finance and Sustainability Task Force. 

Go ahead, call me simplistic, but so many others, particularly bureaucrats, like to spend their time making things more complicated than they really are. These finance committee meetings are starting to blur together on me, they are so repetitive. Essentially, Chris Constantin tells the committee the city is over budget, real bad. But here’s the problem – some people, like Mark Sorensen, want to sit around wasting time on the WHY instead of getting their asses in gear and DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT. One more consultant slide show, and I swear to God, I’m going to dance on the table like Pee Wee Herman.

Frankly, Pee Wee had a better crowd.

If the city of Chico were a “household” right now, they’d be standing on their lawn watching burly guys dump their furniture on the sidewalk. Here’s that bit from Michael’s Moore’s “Roger and Me” that superimposes the GM Christmas party over the eviction of a young woman and her kids from their home.

But I sit in these meetings with these people wearing nice clothes, carrying expensive electronic devices – they will all continue to get their salaries, even as the city moves further into deficit and jobs and services are cut. Every meeting, the same old same old – we’re over-budget, and we have to quit spending!  Meeting after meeting, they trot out the same figures – right now, they can identify over $15,000,000 in missing funds. Well, not missing exactly – SPENT!  Spent on the salaries and benefits of city employees, many of whom are now collecting unemployment. 

I have sat through at least two meetings lately during which finance director Chris Constantin told the council, one very large problem is they don’t have a “cost allocation plan.” A cost allocation plan says exactly how much each employee costs, how much each department spends on everything from employee compensation to their share of PG&E. This seems like a no-brainer, but they haven’t done one since 2001. I know why – because corrupt and incompetent people were running out town – duh, how many times do we have to hash that? 

Mark Sorensen always wants to ask the question, “why haven’t we done this study since 2001?” Well, let me venture Mark – because council hasn’t asked for it, and Dave Burkland sure as hell wasn’t going to volunteer it. Now I must ask Mark, are you toying with the idea of going after Burkland, Hennessy, and whoever else may be complicit in this affair – like the entire city staff and, let’s not forget, the council members who sat through it all like they were passing around a can of nitrous oxide?  Because, if not, shut the fuck up Mark. I’m tired of talking about “why did they do this” – I want to talk about what you intend to do about it.

Constantin outlined a simple plan to start filling in the deficits, now that Brian Nakamura has eliminated so many staffers. This will be a long slow road. I can’t help but ask, and did – please negotiate better contracts in this round of contract talks, which are simply not being talked about before the public. The commiteee, Stone and Sorensen, with Gruendl missing, just stared back at me and voted to “accept” Constantin’s report. With that the meeting was over at about 9am.

It’s like we’re in a sinking boat, and every time they lower the bucket in there to bail out water, they make the hole bigger. 

I’ll get back to the STF meeting later – a really interesting session regarding the Brown Act.

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