- Written by Mike Martin
"I grant that there's a lack of confidence in the City"
COLUMBIA, Mo 02/24/15 (Op Ed) -- "I'm a little worried," my wife said, on hearing Columbia Mayor Robert McDavid's second round of public remarks about her husband -- me -- in as many weeks. "He may be getting a bit obsessed with you."
Hizzoner talked about me at the Jan 20 City Council meeting (about 1:58 here).
And he talked about me again -- for almost two minutes -- at the Feb. 2 Council meeting.
So is this a budding Bromance? Or merely another leg of my Roger and Me-style journey to shine the light of transparency on City Hall's tax- fine- fee- and ratepayer-generated fortune?
It's a journey complete with facts from Columbia's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) -- and fiction, much of it from Mayor Robert himself -- and some of it tinfoil hat.
Take those "secret accounts" he tries to tie me to.
"The city manager is not the third city manager in a row to sequester away millions of dollars in secret accounts," Mayor Bob told Columbia City Council Jan. 20.
Heart Beat city finance reports, however, are not about secrets.
The CAFR is open to public inspection at any time. The money -- page after page of cash and investments, over $366 million as of 9/2014 -- is there for all to see (starting on Table 13, page 189).
The city manager can't "sequester" or hide anything. But he can deftly divert public and Council attention to a related document that gives his side of the financial picture -- the City Manager's Budget.
The CAFR and the Budget are different animals. The Budget is a statement of opinion; the CAFR is a statement of fact. In the Budget, Mike Matthes picks and chooses what he wants to include -- or ignore -- from the CAFR.
Let's try that one more time: CAFR: Fact. Budget: Opinion. "The money is not in the Budget" means "I don't want to spend it," not "We don't have it."
About yours truly, "he says we've got $76 million in cash," Mayor Bob told the Council. "Says it multiple times about the Water and Light Department. And so if we did, let's write a check, right? We could do that. But he's not right."
I've never said anything about "writing a check". That's more fan fiction. I would never suggest the City Council "write a check" that large. Such a suggestion would be impractical at best, a political death sentence at worst.
Think of the blow back Council members would get from local banks, investment firms -- and Town Bosses who view all that public money as a personal piggy bank.
Where you and I see hard-earned tax dollars and spiking utility bills, Bosses and bankers see TIF and EEZ; handouts for IBM, the Tiger Hotel and the defunct Dinner Train.
They see shovel ready development land; Garagezillas for student cars; parkland, sidewalks, and sewers for the St. Charles Road Development Gang.
They see public money on deposit that developers can borrow from banks to build Brat Castles, shopping malls, and subdivisions in the boondocks.
City administrators see money to spend on red light cameras and severance packages; power, influence, and bureaucratic glory.
With this bunch, the public's priorities be damned.
The City Council, meanwhile, can't write a check for anything more than the few thousand bucks they get to play with in the "Council Reserve Fund" or whatever it's called.
"I grant that there's a lack of confidence in the City," Mayor Bob said, blaming me. On half this issue, we agree. But I'm hardly responsible for the confidence crisis, rooted as it is in lies told the public since the McDavid Administration began.
Lies designed to do one thing: Get the public to open its wallet and shut its mouth.
I know -- accusing a Bro of telling whoppers isn't the best way to start a Bromance, so my obsessed fan may have to settle for an autograph.
And I know just where to sign it: On a copy of the CAFR.
-- Mike Martin