- Written by Mike Martin
The artist of deception, after more money
COLUMBIA, Mo 10/5/14 (Op Ed) -- The artist of deception -- Columbia city manager Mike Matthes -- is already changing his story about a property tax hike to hire more police.
"Matthes said himself at the City Council’s Aug. 4 meeting that the tax would hire 30 new officers," the Columbia Daily Tribune reported Sunday. "But he said this week that the number is 40."
Mr. Matthes promptly blamed others for the snafu. "Some folks did the math wrong on what 30 cents on the property tax would raise," he said.
Despite the many times he has ignored city law, undercut the public that pays his salary, and lied to support Big Development, Mr. Matthes persists as City Hall's "point man" on important issues.
The Tribune quoted him at least half-dozen times Sunday, trying to sell a property tax hike for more police and firefighters, on the November ballot despite City Hall's already flush-coffers. Some $144 million in so-called "Unrestricted fund balances" -- money available for any purpose, no strings attached -- made the city's accounting firm, McGladrey, LLP, blush and gush in the 2013 financial statements.
The Tribune and other media outlets quoted Matthes trying to sell a downtown developer tax incentive called TIF just months ago. His sales job promptly became one of the biggest snow jobs in recent Columbia history.
"The city's infrastructure can't handle any new downtown or central city building," Matthes told the Tribune last December. "The pace of development in the area has outstripped the electric and sewer capacity, which is 100 percent utilized."
Then came Opus, American Campus Communities, Collegiate Housing Partners, and nearly half dozen smaller downtown apartments. The lie about infrastructure prompted a lawsuit that names Mr. Matthes as a defendant.
And yet, the city manager continues requesting, cajoling, and demanding more money from the public. "Sales tax can be prone to economic shocks, and the last big recession exposed the weakness in the city’s funding model," Matthes told the Tribune Sunday. "Property taxes are a sturdier source of revenue for the city, Matthes said, and, as he sees it, an appropriate source for public safety services."
But Mr. Matthes "sees" a lot of things, including ways he can circumvent the law. He publicly admitted disregarding Columbia City Ordinance 2-22 when he called two special Wednesday lunch meetings in March, for City Council members to debate and hear testimony about 1,335 new student apartments in the downtown area.
Those apartments included Opus, about which the city manager has deceived multiple times. He told Council members and an audience in July that City Hall had issued a demolition permit to Opus so the company could tear down buildings on its student housing site.
But it was another deception. No permits were issued.
"You heard city manager Mike Matthes say tonight, 'a demolition permit has been issued,'" Repeal 6214 spokesperson Jeremy Root told Council members. "Those statements can only be interpreted as a means to discourage us, as an effort to silence us, and as an effort to quell the citizens demands to participate in critical decisions affecting downtown Columbia."
Fool us once, fool us twice.
"We can't build anymore, no matter what size," Matthes told the Tribune on Dec. 7, 2013 "If you think about that, that's for the whole core of the city, not just for downtown."
So those exacavators digging holes and tearing down buildings for Opus are just a mirage? Fool us anymore, Mr. Matthes, and it's definitely shame on us.
-- Mike Martin