Monday, October 24, 2022

Issues of Substance and Policy

Many folks are not happy with the flyers that have been passed out, nor am I.  But these are a distraction from issues of substance and policy.  

Our city still has no schedule of maintenance available and no schedule of GHAD activities available.  We have squandered money on consultants to conduct surveys about how much of a tax increase people would accept, without even understanding our actual needs.  We have spent money on consultants to hold charrettes regarding the downtown lot, the outcome of which was unlikely to change given the requirements of the housing element.  We've spent money on facilitating meetings as basic as a goal setting session, which is a simple function that happens everyday in most workplaces without the need to hire a consultant.

We have real issues of leadership, and differences in matters of public policy that are getting crowded out by emotional responses to an upsetting flyer.  So let's address some key areas of public policy - Police services, deficit spending, the Olivia, and raising taxes.  Note how each of these policy differences are supported with evidence.

Regarding Police Services:

As a matter of policy, I would never suggest laying off all of our police and outsourcing them.  According to the Pioneer, this is what Ed Miller has suggested.  

From a Sep 14 article in the Pioneer:

Laying off our police and using the Sheriff's Department would yield a higher cost, and a reduced level of services and would be a detriment to public safety in Clayton.  This is part of the reason why the Clayton Police Officers Association endorsed me and not Mr. Miller.

Regarding using reserves and deficit spending:

In addition to suggesting we outsource our police, Mr. Miller proposes to use ARPA funds to make up budget shortfalls.  From Miller's website he says this:

And from the candidate forum:

This is a misunderstanding of ARPA funds.  With no restrictions on how the funds are used, there is no distinction between ARPA funds and our general fund reserves.  Money is fungible, and the only thing that sets our reserves apart from the rest of the reserves is an accounting entry to place it in one bucket or another - otherwise ARPA funds are the same thing as general fund reserves.

I have been consistently against using reserves to make up our budget shortfalls.  Deficit spending is poor public policy and when the city adopted its latest budget, the Council was opposed to any cuts whatsoever and chose to deficit spend.

Regarding the Olivia project that Mr. Miller voted in favor of extending, he says this:

The actual standard for reviewing a request for extension of a project is from CMC 17.64.030, which reads:

“Upon a showing of good cause therefor, the Planning Commission may extend the

period of a permit in which it is to be exercised, used or established, for a maximum

of twelve (12) months at a time or as otherwise specified on the permit.”

The first step is whether good cause exists.  If there is no good cause, then the extension request fails.  Further, there is no standard by which "good cause" is defined. Here the City may define what is sufficient to constitute good cause and unfortunately for Miller and the rest of Clayton, he didn't take the time to understand the law because the extension request could have stopped here.

But even if the extension request went past the good cause stage, this is only a prerequisite for extension, not dispositive. It appears that Miller believes that upon showing good cause the granting of an extension is required.  This is not how the municipal code reads. In the code, it is a two step process. The first is whether good cause exists. If no, then no extension may be granted. If yes, then proceed to the next step. The next step is discretionary - the PC may extend the period of a permit. The use of "may" in this section indicates discretion and there is no other criteria by which that discretion is couched.

And the Olivia extension expires in March 2023.  I voted against the extension but the majority was in favor.  What do you think will happen when this comes before the newly seated Council?  Mr. Miller and two other Councilmembers have voted in favor of extending the first time around already.  

Regarding Raising Taxes:

I am clear about not supporting a tax increase to be placed on the ballot.  We need to make serious efforts to address our budget shortfalls as a prerequisite to discussions about raising taxes and we aren't even close to doing that.  If we don't curtail this quickly, it will serve as a distraction from the work we need to do in order to get our house in order.  But Bridget Billeter has said she wouldn't commit either way, that she is neither for or against a tax increase.  Does that sound familiar?

Billeter says the issue would be to place a measure on the ballot and leave it to the voters.  For this to happen, four of the five Councilmembers would have to vote in favor of it.  It seems to me by saying that she trusts the residents of Clayton to make that decision, that Billeter has already made hers.

We have real issues of leadership, and differences in matters of public policy.  These are some of the key issues that are at stake this election.