By Bradley Harrington
“I realize this presents a challenge to you … But this gives us all some time to get our heads wrapped around the very rapidly increasing bond payment we’ve discovered on the Spiker parking garage.” — Cheyenne City Councilman Dicky Shanor, Speaking to Mayor Marian Orr, City Council Meeting, June 12, 2017 —
For anyone laboring under the delusion that Cheyenne’s City Council has any kind of a clue about proper ways to spend money, or even how it is they are spending it, this story should abuse you of those delusions:
“After some significant wrangling and another last-minute surprise, the Cheyenne City Council on Monday approved a final, balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins July 1 … City Council members were posed with an additional challenge Monday by [Acting Treasurer] David Pope … Pope said he discovered recently the city is facing ballooning payments on the Spiker Parking Garage downtown … Specifically, the city still owes about $8 million on the garage, and payments will be increasing each year until the balance is paid off. For FY 2018, that amount is $450,000, which will rise to $500,000 in FY 2019 and even more in later years … This was concerning to council members, who had no knowledge that the Spiker garage still had so much left to pay down.” (“Cheyenne City Council passes city budget,” WTE, June 13.)
Really, councilors? Well, let’s see … the city’s FY 2016 budget was passed by the council on June 8, 2015, and the FY 2017 budget was passed on June 13, 2016. BOTH of those budgets contain the following parking garage payment schedules (with the 2016 payment absent, of course, for the FY 2017 budget):
“Parking Lot Bonds Reported in General Fund”: 2016 — $557,844; 2017 — $626,938; 2018 — $642,375; 2019 — $657,250; 2020 — $672,987; 2021 — $687,488; 2022 — $725,937; 2023 — $762,425; 2024 — $771,800; 2025 — $806,200; 2026 — $838,700; 2027 — $869,200; and 2028 — $1,747,600.
(Sidebar: The figures listed in the story are for principal payments only; they do NOT include the interest payments, which the budget figures just listed do take into account.)
And, of the nine members currently on the council, six of you — Scott Roybal, Bryan Cook, Mark Rinne, Dicky Shanor, Richard Johnson and Mike Luna — voted on those very two budgets … The ones that contained the very information which you now claim that you had “no knowledge” of.
With Nancy Pelosi on ObamaCare back in 2010, we were told that we had to “pass it to find out what’s in it.” What could possibly be worse than that, but to pass it and STILL not know what’s in it?
Yet, given that information, Councilman Shanor can STILL utter the quote at the top of this column, AFTER he told Mayor Orr that (1) she needs to take some of the city’s expected $1.27 million from the sale of the old Cop Shop and apply it to the bond payment, a move he was virulently opposed to last month when it came to getting rid of the city’s $471,741 deficit, and (2) that she needs to whack at least four, if not more, employees off the city’s payroll, and establish hiring freezes on the rest?
Just how much more time do you need, Councilman Shanor, to “wrap your head around” what you already knew, and voted on, back in 2015 and 2016?
Nor was such hypocrisy limited to Shanor’s comments, for Councilman Johnson also had his ignorance of his own voting record on full display as well:
“I found out about that loan payment at 5 o’clock (Monday afternoon) and the email had come at 4:18,” Johnson said. “Once again, third reading, an amendment last minute …”
I’m telling you, Dear Readers, you just can’t make this stuff up. Both Shanor and Johnson should consider running for federal offices; they’d sure fit right in with Congress.
As for ways to actually balance budgets, they come in two varieties: Cutting spending and/or increasing revenues.
A real easy way to have done the first would have been to zero out the Downtown Development Authority’s funding ($450,000), an absolutely useless “economic development” organization if there ever was one, which Mayor Orr had the courage to recommend last month. A majority of hypocrites on the Council, however, nixed that idea.
As for increasing revenues: We’ll save that jewel for next week, when we discuss the results of the “Development Impact Fees” study the city commissioned back in March of 2015 … You know, the one you six “no knowledge” councilors shoved into your desk drawers instead of grasping the fact that the city woefully undercharges impact fees for new development?
At that point, we’ll hammer home what this week has already made quite clear: That this whole farce is little more than city budget shenanigans of the highest order.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on June 18, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.