There are three pending problems for 2013 that have put a once calm desert city into what some may say is a complete crisis situation. Many in the city simply do not know how their tax dollars have been so grossly mismanaged in the last two years. Many also become upset once they are informed of the facts, as opposed to the “spin” of city hall and some elected officials, that of late, have failed to think for themselves and have relied upon the poor advice of city staff.
Here are three killer issues for 29 Palms in 2013.
First, the city needs to deal with a 31 million debt bond that was floated to build a 11 million dollar theater and low income housing complex in order to prevent the State from allegedly taking “our” tax dollars when the Redevelopment Agencies across the State were closed. The city has failed for over a year to convince the State that their plan of simply having sold bonds defines a contract to build. The State is not buying it and neither should we. The city has already spent over $250,000.00 of our tax dollars paying lawyers and advisers in the chase for this Project Phoenix and has nothing but “No” answers to show for it.
Our city council needs to step up and be leaders. Enough is enough. Mr. Warne. Mr. Munoz, and Mr. McCleary you lost and in the process you lost our money. You will become part of the third problem. Until then our Council must order, not suggest, or imply, but order you to cease the chase and begin the solution of paying off these bonds as fast a possible and not allowing us to be burdened with this ridiculous debt for the next 28 years.
Second, the city needs to properly solve the fire department issue. This second issue is closely related to the first because to date city staff, as well as the council, have deemed it appropriate to spend that previously mentioned $250,000.00 plus on a fruitless pursuit to build that theater and low income housing when all it would take to fund our present fire department for another year is about $250,000.00 plus.
Our city has collected about 22% of our general tax levy for 25 years that every other city pays for fire protection. Now, when it comes time to decide about public safety and save our own fire department our city remains silent and of last decided to default on their responsibility and offer to us the option of the city still paying nothing for fire protection and collecting that 22% and defaulting to county fire to provide that service at 1/2 the service level. Yes, the county will offer us one fire station instead of two and three firefighters instead of six all at the same cost of what we pay today in a special parcel tax which gets us twice that level for the same 1.2 million dollars. And somehow our city will not come forward with that $250,000.00 plus that they are so eager to spend on lawyers and advisers in order to build that theater and low income housing.
Third, our city Senior staff needs to be evaluated in terms of retention or termination. This issue is closely related to the first two. At no time in the history of our city have we allowed ourselves to have staff run the show. The first two issues clearly show that we have a city manager, a city attorney, and a consulting individual, Mr. McCleary, that have put our city into extreme debt, soon to be extreme peril, and need to be, in my opinion, relived and terminated before even more damage is done to our city.
Some will say that the council is responsible. Well, that is partially true and those that voted to sell the bonds need to be removed from office in 2014 and those that vote to not save our city fire department also need to be removed. But right now the council needs to initiate termination evaluations for the named individuals.
I have never, ever, seen our city is such bad shape as I see it now. Only strong leadership and firm direction will right the ship.