Nothing like watching Tuesday night’s City Council meeting (9/6) could have demonstrated more strikingly the importance of historical knowledge—or at minimum, some recent involvement in town affairs when electing council members. For some councilmen it was obvious that their knowledge level dated back to an entirely different era and economic time. For one, being uninformed about past knowledge meant being uninformed about information discussed as recently as the last Council meeting. Time after time facts about various issues had to be corrected or delivered as new information by those who did have historical knowledge. Even the town’s new City Manager was more up-to-date than some.
One resident who watched the proceedings live streaming at home commented to FM that it was absolutely unbelievable that some members of this council are so misinformed when making critical decisions that will impact the economic future of Addison. We couldn’t agree more. And if that appears like an editorial comment, our apologies, but unfortunately when decision-makers are as uninformed as some at Tuesday night’s council meeting—it’s hard not to report the disappointing and frightening reality as such.
Lack of knowledge from the beginning
Discussion on the council’s first agenda item—discussion about connectivity between east and west that had been tabled from the last meeting—took 50 minutes. Even after all that time there was such misunderstanding about the Legacy Foundation and its purpose, process and authority that once again the entire topic was tabled until next Tuesday’s meeting.
Contributing to the delay was the fact that Meier and Arfsten are on the board of the Legacy Foundation, thus the city attorney needs time to research whether the two can legally vote on the issue. We suggest you watch the video for yourself to get the full grasp of how lack of knowledge and understanding created such confusion and dissension that it paralyzed any possible decision.
Little public input
There were two public hearings held with little participation. Only one individual spoke at the Tax Rate Hearing. Ten residents spoke at the Budget Hearing, 5 of them expressing their views for or against the COLA. FM has learned that council members did, however, receive numerous letters regarding the COLA, mostly letters opposing it.
More confusion and indecision
During discussion of the IF (Infrastructure Investment Fund) there was considerable dissension. A motion to fund it to a minimum of $6M was declined 2-5 with only Meier and Wilcox voting in favor. Then Meier made a motion to continue council’s previous policy of growing our IF fund to at least $4.7M for fiscal year 2017. It also failed 2 to 5 with only Meier and Wilcox voting in favor. Interestingly however, after that motion failing, Arfsten made a motion to direct the staff to find a way to fund the IF fund to begin at $4.7M or greater in the next year. The motion was approved with a 6-1 vote, with Duffy opposing it.
Meier then wanted to go on record, commenting, “From a personal standpoint I really don’t think I can be in favor of a budget when our IF fund goes down.”
No seeing eye-to-eye on COLA
When it came time to discuss the controversial issue of COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) there was once again considerable diverse thinking. Eventually Duffy motioned to include in the budget 70% of the CPI (Consumer Price Index) in this year’s budget; Walden seconded. The motion passed 4-3 with Angell, Meier and Wilcox voting against it. Should the council vote to approve COLA (which by law requires approving an ordinance separate from the budget vote), this would immediately add $532,000 unfunded liability which increases the total unfunded liability from $4.5M to $5M.
Tax Rate set
At the end of the four-hour meeting Arfsten motioned to set the tax rate at the City Manager’s proposed rate of .560472. Duffy seconded the vote and it passed 5-2 with Meier and Wilcox voting against.
Next Tuesday the die is cast
As the saying goes, “It’s all over but the shouting,” next Tuesday. That’s when the council meets to vote on the FY 2017 budget. Given all the confusion demonstrated at this week’s council meeting it is perhaps good that the Mayor recommended that a Public Hearing be added to next week’s council meeting agenda to ensure that all citizens who have comments will have the opportunity to do so. The City Manager clarified that the public announcement for Public Hearings, which are required to be placed in the newspaper, had been done for the previous hearings but there would not be time to announce this additional meeting.
If you have any concerns about Addison’s future financial viability and the decisions being made for your town, FM recommends that you consider viewing the video from this week’s council. It’s a good indication of what costs residents could be faced with in the future and how that may impact the town’s potential growth and services.
Photo via Legosz – Flickr
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