View from the Cheap Seats: How to avoid mowing the lawn

Just as we think we have the future planned, something comes along to change everything. Saturday was a small example. I’d planned to mow the lawn, wash the car and get a couple of “honey-do’s” completed. My wife says… well never mind.

Anyway, before I could face the lawn, I went to a friend’s house for a minute. It was a beautiful day, perfect for playing with old cars. You can’t waste these opportunities this time of year. As we stood in his driveway talking, he handed me a campaign flyer from Debbie Sutherland. “Do you think anybody believes this garbage?” he asked, obviously not expecting an answer. He let me keep the flyer. This column was going to be focused on making you familiar with Jim Scott, but not anymore. Sorry – I can’t help myself. I’d like to keep these columns light, but if I don’t get this said, my brain may explode.

I showed the Sutherland flyer to my wife. “Well first, she hasn’t been in office 8 years like it says,” she commented. “Remember, she was on city council and was the only council member without a full-time job when Tom Jelepis moved to the Elections Commission? It’s more like 9 years… maybe even more.”  I’d forgotten that.

This made me take a closer look at the flyer. The first platform point was “Responsible fiscal stewardship in tough economic times.” Oh – now I know why the city’s debt increased by 121% during the 8 – no, 9 – years of Debbie’s reign. It was Debbie’s version of “responsible stewardship.” Probably the same “responsible stewardship” that leads her to spend half a million dollars more than the city takes in this year over the mild objections of city council (Jim Scott was the only council member who voted against her deficit budget). Was it “responsible fiscal stewardship” when she presented council with TWO budgets and, when they asked which she was requesting, she responded that they should choose? Had council chosen, she’d have blamed them for the deficit because she hadn’t endorsed EITHER of the budgets SHE’D submitted. Sneaky, but “responsible”?

Let’s see… ”Investment in sewer, infrastructure and park improvements.”  Yea, that’s right – like the annual flooding in Bay’s basements the past few years. With the election coming up, she’s suddenly concerned. She hasn’t fixed it for eight – no, nine – years, but now it’s important. These things take time I guess.

OK – Next is the “Focus on sustainability through the Mayor’s Green Team.” I talked to a friend who was at the first Green Team meeting who told me Debbie’s first “green” initiative was to buy the mayor a new hybrid SUV! Now THAT’s thinking outside the box! Somebody just wanted a new car. I did a calculation that showed it would have taken eight (or was it nine?) years to pay for the extra hybrid expense through the fuel savings. The new SUV was shouted down, but she’s driving an SUV anyway – the non hybrid one left parked when Jim Sears retired as Service Director. She says she can drive her city car “anyplace she wants – even to the mall.” I personally heard her say it – I’m not making this stuff up!

Hmmmm… next… ”New, more interactive web site.” Well I’m all for that, as the one the city has now is awful, and some of it isn’t even accurate. Debbie has even tried to do something about it – to the tune of $30,000, which was nixed by the finance committee. There is, after all SOME adult supervision at City Hall. Yet she insists on spending $15,000 (or so) a year mailing out the recreation newsletter, even though city council has repeatedly urged her to go electronic with the newsletter and spend the money on the web site. Guess we have to have both – just cuz.

Finally – “Creative partnerships that save tax dollars.” Like the creative partnership between the fire department and the mayor when she unilaterally changed the rules for replacing firefighters who call in sick? That was certainly a partnership. The mayor postured and threatened and the firefighters picketed. Not only creative, but very productive too – at least she must have thought so.

As I was about to throw out the flyer, I noticed the banner headline. “Experience. Commitment. Service.” Is it “experience” to live the same year 9 times without learning anything? Is it “commitment” when she spent most of a year campaigning for a job at the county and neglected her job at the city? Is it “service” to the community to spend half a million more than we take in – in a single year?

My wife wants me to stop screaming at the computer screen, so I’m going to go lie down in a dark room to get my blood pressure back under control. So much for the lawn.

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Volume 1, Issue 3, Posted 1:53 PM, 09.22.2009