BIANCHI RECORD-BUSTING BUDGET DOESN’T INCLUDE $4.5 MILLION REQUEST FOR CAPITAL PROJECTS … COUNCIL SLASHES HIBBARD PROPOSAL BY $1.25 MM … PLANET ANNOTATES THE BIG SPENDER’S LIST
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, 2013) — Mayor Dan Bianchi, neither the first nor the last of the political big-time spenders, set an all-time record with his FY14 municipal budget, beating the record he set himself the year before. So much for innovative leadership in the joint cause of pulling the reins on the outrageous cost of government and giving businesses and homeowners a break on taxes.
THE PLANET wonders how Bianchi will spin this latest raid on taxpayer pockets when he hits the campaign trail (IF he hits the campaign trail … thus far, no one has stepped forward to challenge his re-election bid). He shall talk of “fiscal responsibility,” “prudence,” and things of that sort. Those who listen will not hear. They will politely nod their heads and know, if Bianchi wins another term, the city will be doomed to set another spending record. Those who do not listen will be spared the dreariness of effort.
What you may not realize is that the $137 millon-plus budget the mayor filed does not include the mayor’s capital spending plans. This is money for projects that he intends to put on the city’s credit card, paid for with money the city doesn’t have. Granted, a city needs a certain amount of capital spending just to keep up with depreciation, but how these politicians love debt, addicted to it worse than a speed popper loves cough syrup.
The mayor asked the council for more than $4.4 million in capital spending. Our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council gave him $3.5 million, lopping off $1.25 million from Bianchi’s request to spend $1.5 million on renovations to the mothballed Hibbard School building on Newell Street.
The Hibbard Building needs attention. That cannot be denied. Just how much TLC is justified at this point? It depends on who you’re listening to and what agenda they are pushing. In the abstract, THE PLANET supports the notion of bringing back Hibbard into productive use on behalf of taxpayers. We also realize it will cost money to do that. Thus, in principle, we support Bianchi’s move.
The mayor correctly points out that it’s not wise to let such a potentially valuable resource continue to rot. We wonder, however, about the mayor’s lack of information about his plans for the building and the lack of specific plans for Hibbard. One would think that before he came to the council looking for $1.5 million, he would have this worked out in advance. As it is, the council gave Bianchi $250,000 of his request, basically telling him to shore up the building, making the most needed repairs, and to come back with plans if he is serious about Hibbard. Those plans will include hard information on why the building is needed and for what eventual purpose.
That Bianchi would put forth the request for so much borrowing without having an idea of what he would do with the building once repaired (if he has such an idea, he has not shared it with the public) questions the mayor’s seriousness about the building. We guess that to defend this request, he must dip his noodle into what political types like to call the “vision thing.”
They all have vision, don’t they? The new school superintendent in Lee talked about “vision.” The outgoing interim superintendent in Pittsfield shared his “vision” be fore he left. He got vision, she got vision, all God’s chillun got vision. Given all this, it’s funny that the taxpayers rarely see anything worth looking at.
No doubt we’ll hear Bianchi talk about “vision” if, when, and how he campaigns. A logical followup to any claims to “vision” will be, “So what about Hibbard School?” The mayor has issued general “could be’s” about a revamped Hibbard as either home for the the adult learning center or the Juvenile Resource Center, but, without concrete plans, there’s no telling that the building would be good for either or both. Also, how much would the final cost be to turn Hibbard into either the ALC or JLC. What would the budget be?
The quarter million approved by the council will be used to repair the roof, remove an old boiler, and perform masonry work.
DETAILS OF BIANCHI’S CAPITAL SPENDING
Item, Amount, and Comment
Here is the list of projects for which Bianchi sought funding, which the council approved. We have added out annotations.
* 95 portable radios (Motorola APX 6000), $130,000 — Someone’s been reading too much Dick Tracy.
* Police motorcycles, $37,828 — Easy Riders.
* Computer replacement for the police department, $50,000 — You mean there are nerds on the force?
* Catch basin cleaning truck, $172,000 — That’s a lot of dough down the drain.
* Asbestos removal in schools, $50,000 — Never easy breathing in those hallowed halls, is it?
* Door and lock replacement in the schools, $40,000 — Hmmm, has there by any chance been thievery?
* Audio upgrades for each of the city’s five fire stations, $28,000 — The Beyonce will sound a lot better.
* Downtown parking management plan — “Parking,” “management,” and “plan” in the same sentence?
* Municipal garage cameras, $60,000 — So the drug dealers can look good in their closeups.
* Boiler #2 leveling, Crosby School, $98,000 — For 98 grand, it had better be on the level.
* Oil tank removal at Mercer, $30,000 — The Nose must have left it behind when he beat it outta town.
* Streetscape improvements, $1.5 million — What, more self-watering planters?
* Rekey, Crosby School, $75,000 — What the heck is “Rekey?” A cult? Code for “waste of tax dollars?”
* Oil tank removal, Springside House, $66,000 — Buried next to the dead-and-gone carom boards.
* Oil tank removal, maintenance, $20,000 — Oily to bed, oily to rise, taxpayers can’t believe their eyes.
* Library gas conversion, $100,000 — Conversion? From Methodist to Episcopalian?
* Columbus Ave. garage coating, $160,000 — For that price, it better include two pair of pants.
* Hibbard School renovations, $250,000 — See above discussion.
* PHS gym floor replacement, $130,000 — There goes the home court advantage.
* Central fire station, carpet removal/tile — Only the best at Rug Row.
* City Hall floor refinishing, $50,000 — This in addition to the $50Gs already spent. Must be nice.
All this for a mere $3.5374 million, all of it money the city doesn’t have. It will not be begged or stolen. It will be borrowed, at interest … stolen, that is, from taxpayers.
“We are dying, we are dying, so all we can do / is now be willing to die, and to build the ship / of death to carry the soul on the longest journey.” — D.H. Lawrence, opening, stanza 7, “The Ship of Death.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.