Monday, June 15, 2009

My City Is Headed For A Paradigm Shift

The local paper ran an article over the weekend on increasingly shady going on at the Irving (Tx) City Council. Illustrating the issues was the recent vote over City Manager Tommy Gonzales. It seems that when the Council voted favorable to renew his contract they were not informed that it contained a giant raise and perks. He's now earning $450,000 / year.

In the mean time, the city has been overspending, and over budgeting for new projects. The city is facing serious budget shortfalls.

These are problems that can be laid at the City Manager's feet, along with Mayor Herbert E. Gears.

Now, these men represent the status quo. We knew what they were about when elected the Mayor and the when the Manager was appointed and approved. They campaigned on a platform of infinite growth. And why not? Everyone else prior to them did the same thing.

The assumptions that they hold, and are repeated int he media is that bear runs are an anomaly, rather than a rule. That growth comes from spending and borrowing. That this bear run will soon bottom and the V will come and take us to a bull run.

In fact, they so believed in this, that they are betting everything on it. The City of Irving's budget for years has assumed that there would be no downturn. So money has been overspent on future revenue.

Now this isn't unusual or particularly alarming, except that they were still gambling on this during the last bond election, when the writing was on the wall that a downturn was eminent. Irving had just gone through a budget squeeze the preceding years, and learned nothing at all from it. As soon as the bubble economy got going again, the city planned even more new and expensive projects. We had a bond election, I voted against almost every project, but they all won by a clear margin.

Now Irving it seems is committed to these projects, but the bonds didn't sell, and we're strapped for cash in trying to find innovative ways to pay for them.

One way they are successfully increasing revenue is stepping up the variety of ways that they can impose fines on residents, as part of the beatification program. A neighbor of mine found out the hard way that the city requires that you obtain a permit before holding a garage sale. He's been given a $250 fine. On Saturday I saw the city inspector drive by with several signs in the back of the car. Evidently, business is good. My neighbor doesn't have the $250. He needed to find a way to earn cash to feed his family, and the garage sale wasn't profitable enough to pay the fine. He plans to work off his fine doing community service or just sitting in jail.

Irving isn't the only city that is desperate of cash. Folks I talk to everywhere are telling me about an increasing number of traffic stops. They tell me that they have gotten citations for running red lights with cameras, when the light is clearly green in the photos. More and more small town sheriffs are going back to the Reagan days of confiscating cash, so that you don't accidentally buy drugs with it.

All over the country, bad decisions, driven by the cancer cell belief in perpetual growth, is leading cities to work to suck the economic life out of it's citizens, that are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.

Of course, the thousands of dollars the city collected over the weekend in fines, was just part of the beautification project. they want to make it clear that it has nothing to do with river of red ink that is flooding in. Nothing to see here folks. Move along, move along...

This will get worse. Keep your nose clean.

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Addendum...

current actions by the White House to undermine the legal rights of bondholders in the Chrysler case, could well make it more difficult for cities to sell bonds in the future. If the law doesn't protect investors, then they'll have no choice to but to reconsider the current valuation of bonds. If the perceived risk of buying bonds is increased, then the cities will have to offer more incentives in their sales. In other words it will cost the city more to sell bonds.

2 Comments:

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Wild Gypsy said...

I don't know where Irving, TX is, but I well remember West Texas in the boom years. It would not surprise me if you wake up one morning to find the post offices, libraries, DMV's and even the courts downsizing and consolidating to county seats (rather than individual cities) one day real soon.

Good luck to ya.

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger Weaseldog said...

Irving is a bit West of Dallas, in Dallas County.

 

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