Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Budgetary Priorities, Lynnwood-Style

Yesterday, Monday 1 November 2010, Mayor Gough presented his preliminary budget to Lynnwood City Council.

Where to begin...

To get an idea of the City of Lynnwood's apparent priorities, let us consider the case of Lynnwood University, because in many ways it is a perfect barometer for measuring how seriously this administration takes the city's fiscal state of affairs. Lynnwood University epitomizes utterly wasteful and profoundly irresponsible spending, given the current fiscal environment. To call Lynnwood University a non-necessity is perhaps the understatement of the decade.

For those unfamiliar with it, Lynnwood University is essentially a glorified Show-and-Tell program. The city spends precious tax dollars to fund a feel-good program whereby citizens who sign up are taken on tours of the fire department, police department, courts, water treatment facility, and so on, and sit in a "classroom" environment where they are given presentations by city staff regarding the budget process, permitting, our forms of government, budgeting, and a lot of stuff we all learned in Civics class during our grammar school years. Coffee, tea, snacks and treats, pens and paper and presentation material are all provided, naturally, at taxpayer expense.

Now, I ask: considering that the city has threatened to lay off workers including police and fire, which are conceivably the most basic of essential services, owing to lack of funds, does it seem proper to continue funding some kind of dog and pony show like Lynnwood University?

No? It doesn't?

Then consider the following, which I am quoting verbatim from the mayor's proposed budget. On p. 70, he proposes to:
"Continue Lynnwood University on a tightened budget. Develop advertising and promotion targets to encourage underrepresented communities to participate."
A tightened budget? From slide #39 of the mayor's summary presentation to city council last night, the reduction to Lynnwood Univrsity will amount to $4,000.

$4,000? A $4,000 cut to a textbook case of porky, wasteful spending that we cannot afford? Amid possible reductions in fire and police? And in an environment so dire that the city is simultaneously proposing increases to an entire raft of taxes plus some new ones?

This is one example snatched out of the blue after just perusing these documents. God only knows how much more waste and shocking misprioritizations pervade it.

Bottom line, the city of Lynnwood is faced with historic budgetary woes and they are entirely due to two things that characterize city government:
  1. Abject incompetence in assessing the state of the economy when it would have mattered most (not too long before the collapse of the nation's economy, when major decisions were being made in the city;
  2. A striking and chronic inability to resist compulsively spending every dime that comes in.
It is not possible to overemphasize that second point, as the state auditor recently observed  in its scathing assessment of Lynnwood. This city went simply hog wild, blew through its entire budget and even exhausted its reserve funds during a time of fiscal prosperity, and is still millions in the red even despite recent historic windfalls of millions of "extra" dollars from red-light camera revenues.

If you've had it up to here, get to the upcoming meeting, this coming Saturday, and voice your discontent and demand accountability from the mayor and council alike. Show up here:

Peoples Town Hall Meeting
Lynnwood's 2011-12 Budget
Saturday, Nov 6th
11:00 am"“1:00 pm
Edmonds Community College
20000 - 68th Avenue West
Snoqualmie Building, Rm 113