Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before

December 5, 2012

I have this recurring nightmare.


In my death throes, with no turning back from whatever it is that’s oncoming, infinite nothingness I assume, and the last thing I see, my ultimate mortal vision, a Latin verse or two I so wish I could drop in here, my final rite if I were a god fearing sort of person, the light I would not rush headlong toward is the scowling, sullen, angry face of our current budget chief, Mike Del Grande.

Widows and orphans! At the end of the day! These times we live in. These TIMES we live in. At the end of the day. Widows and orphans. At the end of the day.

The burning resentment of that relative wrapped in a slight whiff of burnt butter that even your politically radioactive father didn’t have the time of day for. I may be nuts, sonny jim, but your Uncle Mike, well, he’s, well, how do I say this nicely, more than a little crazy. trembleNo small talk from your Uncle Mike because it cuts into his time to rail at everything. And we do mean everything.

Do you know how much they want for this loaf of bread? A loaf of bread?! Some flour and water! A loaf of bread?!

Mike Del Grande should not be making any sort of important decisions about the course of this city. He is simply incapable of imagining a place that must spend some $10 billion a year to function even close to properly or fairly. Big numbers overwhelm him and confuse him. Such confusion leads to a perpetual state of surliness.

These numbers must be reduced. They do not compute. My pocket calculator cannot contain them. They do not compute. These numbers must be reduced.

In breath-taking post by Karolyn Coorsh at Town Crier Politics, there’s the following exchange between the budget chief and the city’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat.

Keesmaat was quite candid in describing a “honeymoon’s over” moment back in early fall, when she had to defend departmental spending line by line to Budget Chief Mike Del Grande.  

Keesmaat held the line this year, but informed the budget chief that after a previous three years of unilateral cuts, there is no way she’d be able to squeeze or freeze again next year.  

According to Keesmaat, a “hot-under-the-collar” Del Grande responded by saying it’s a pervasive problem he was seeing across departments. “He said, ‘There’s just no money and there’s no fat to trim. We have to find a source of revenue.’

“And I said, ‘Councillor, with all due respect, that’s what property taxes are. They’re a way that residents of this city pay for the services that we provide.’”

“There’s just no money and there’s no fat to trim,” the budget chief laments. “We have to find a source of revenue.”

We had a fucking source of revenue, Mr. Budget Chief! It was called the Vehicle Registration Tax. You and a majority of councillors jettisoned it back in the halcyon days of the city having a spending not a revenue problem. bananastandYou froze property taxes one year and didn’t make up for the resulting revenue shortfall the next.

There are sources of revenues immediately accessible to us. Our budget chief just chooses to ignore them, pretends they don’t exist and then berates anyone who comes before him, asking to be spared the axe. ‘Show me the money,’ is his boringly predictable response. Show him the money.

When someone actually does, pointing to a proper property tax increase, the budget chief just picks a big, unnecessarily large number out of the air. 10%? Is that what you want? 10% Maybe 15. Just say it. Say it!

It would be a lot less galling if he was just honest with us and simply came right out and said that he doesn’t care about the planning department. Widows and orphans? M’eh. Free swimming lessons? Outrageous. In his day, if you couldn’t afford to learn how to swim, you just stayed clear of the water.

Instead, we get this self-pitying tone of a put upon martyr foisted reluctantly into a position in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’d love to help everyone, give out a second helping of gruel to the needy, a chicken in every pot etc., etc. It’s just that, it’s just that his hands are tied, you see. A victim of circumstance and inevitability.

Three years in, the schtick is old and tiresome not to mention detrimental to the well-being of the city and its residents. Budget Chief Del Grande likes to tout how tough it is saying ‘no’. Anybody can say ‘yes’ to every request for money that comes across their desk. texaschainsawmassacreOnly the bold stand their ground, dig in their heels and close their minds.

But if there’s no more fat to trim, as the budget chief apparently admitted, only someone bereft of imagination or spirit would continue to cut away. He just can’t seem to stop. It’s all he knows how to do.

Perhaps it’s time someone takes the knife from his hand before he inflicts any further damage. After all, we don’t expect a butcher to breathe life back into the cow.

slice-and-dicingly submitted by Cityslikr