As we approach the election, some of the candidates seem to pulling out all the stops. We are starting to see a campaign of misdirection and misinformation. Some of the statements can not be supported by recorded facts. They seemed to be window covering, perhaps for more sinister things that have not seen the light of day. By employing the printed word and saying some things among friends, perhaps, some of the candidates are hopeful, voters will accept everything at face value. A careful review of some of the statements, can not go unchallenged.
1. STATEMENT: “Heber City has seen a substantial decline in tax and other revenues.”
FACT: Yes, there has been a decline, (supported by actual count and figures in the latest budget) but the current administration and their unsupported decisions, are guilty for part of the decline. Based on promises by developers, Heber City built a revenue source into their budget, and although the economic math was not checked for accuracy, the City began spending some monies, based on the premise, that revenues would catch up with spending, and everything would be ok. But the figures that supported the revenues, the City was so eager to spend, never really materialized. They were pie in the sky to start with, and no one took a peak to see if they were even close to reality. The statement has some truth, but a careful investigation shows there are reasons other than the economy.
2. STATEMENT: “Balancing the budget without tax increases or layoffs“.
FACT: The budget is a minimum information document. It is what is required by the State of Utah. It also allows for some pretty creative accounting as well. Experts who have looked at this balancing act, have drawn two conclusions;
1. If Heber City separates their wants from their needs, there is money not only to balance the budget, but to allow some departments a little growth.
2. The City is hinting that a tax hike will come as soon as next year. (See June 20, 2009 interview with City Manager in Deseret News) But according to those who have looked at the budget, such threats of tax, fee and service hikes are premature at best, and with out foundation for at least the next two years and perhaps longer. Layoffs according to sources within the City, were never a serious contemplation for anyone working in the office building. But there was some discussion in an effort to scare folks, which would make a tax hike pretty supportable. There was the dutiful mention of other departments, like police, public works, etc. and of course, in some cases, those that retired (not many) were not replaced, since the money was needed to hire some new faces for some new posts in support of the kingdom. And even the mention of lay offs was really a public relations stunt.
3. STATEMENT: “the Mayor and Council have been committed to sound fiscal responsibility“.
FACT: A careful reading of the minutes over the last four years, will show, that fiscal responsibility was never taken too seriously. Evidenced by five very important decisions;
A. The holding of 500,000 dollars for architectural services for a new City Hall.
B. The use of the general fund to build Airport Hangars, during a down turn in the economy on speculation.
C. The hiring of a new City inspector, during an obvious downturn and slow down in projects.
D. The hiring of the airport manager, for his construction expertise, rather than for his Airport Management skills, and why, since the airport, according to the current budget, operates at a deficit.
E. The spending of some monies, that had not materialized, due to unfulfilled promises by the Boyer Company which the City took at face value and knew they would not be collecting.
4. STATEMENT: “We have tightened budgets in every department“.
FACT: A careful reading of the recently passed budget, shows that in some departments, the amount of money wanted in the new fiscal year was trimmed. Trimming a budget desire or a want, can not be compared to tightening an existing budget. In fact, to suggest budgets were tightened, is a serious play on words when each department is compared, with the actual figures in the current budget report.
5. STATEMENT: “delayed some capitol projects“.
FACT: The only capitol project, the public has been informed about is the building of a new City Hall. If there are others on a wish list, the public has not been informed, nor has the Planning Commission held public meetings on the issue. Could it be possible, there are some capitol projects, that have been discussed privately and have made the list of wants, but now have been delayed?
6. STATEMENT: “delayed hiring new employees.”
FACT: In this down turn, Heber City has hired additional employees. A new Airport manager was hired in the last eight months. The City has also hired a new inspector. In order to pay him, they have created a new list of fees which have been increased to support the new inspector, since there is no new construction.
There is some talk, of not replacing a few who retired. But no one should confuse, replacement with delaying some hiring. Misdirection at its best.
7. STATEMENT: “Next four years…expanding…commercial base.”.
FACT: For 1460 days, there has been a need to expand the commercial base, but the current administration has spent most of the time, working with residential development, under the false idea, that somehow, residential development will pay for itself. Planners know, that such ideas are folly. There was a need four years ago to work and plan for new commercial development. No real plan was ever put into place. If expansion was not done in the last four years, can anyone believe it will happen in the next four years with the current crew?
8. STATEMENT: “provide jobs and increase tax revenues“.
FACT: The current administration has done only one thing, to provide jobs and increase tax revenues. They worked a deal with the Boyer Company. A one sided deal at best, where every demand was responded to, and now today, after all the pretty pictures, the public meetings and the misinformation, plus members of the council and others allowing the Boyer Company to use them in advertising to promote an election on a new zone change, nothing has happened, with the exception of removing 80 families from their homes.
9. STATEMENT: “improve parks and recreation“.
FACT: Other than some talk, and spending a little money on the Valley Hills Park, and correcting problems, from the lack of oversight on one or two others , there are no new parks. There is no new recreation, that so far has been created by the city. Some opportunities have been created by Wasatch County, and in one case, Heber City allowed changes to take place to support the County’s’ wishes, even though it was against current City laws to do so.
10. STATEMENT: “Improving and planning for future transportation“.
FACT: Traffic throughout the City is worse today, than at any other time in the history of the City. Heber City had, at one time, a transportation plan, but have not followed it for some time. They believe that nothing needs to be done, according to current members of the City Administration, until 2030. Therefore, they have not spent due diligence on any plan. Nor has the council supported planning in an effort to make improvements. The current plan, proposed a few months ago, ( which not really a plan but a ploy to show how independent Heber City is of other entities) is to send traffic through residential zones to calm traffic on Main street. The current administration has declined to support Wasatch County plans to rectify traffic problems. In public meetings, they seem to support proposals, but privately, they have no intention of supporting anything, except their own plan, and since they do not have a plan, nothing has happened in the last four years. Citizens should not expect any changes, if incumbents are returned to office.
11. STATEMENT: “support pressurized irrigation for the old sections of Heber.”
FACT: There was a study made with some unique conclusions. At the present time, there are only about 15 copies of the study available, so citizens are not and were not part of the process. The study concluded, that for about 51/2 million dollars, the system could be installed and up and running. But in the last 4 years, Heber City has squandered enough funds, in deals, speculation and forgiving payments to nearly pay for all of the system. When one hears of support for the system, and then sees the facts, it is easy to understand, such statements are really just sound bites. Very similar to a dog barking in the still of the night.
Election statements, always need credentials and support based on facts. Citizens in doubt, should find out before voting.