Why Did I Take On The Sewer Bill?
The question was posed on Facebook by Dennis Gebelhardt, Journeyman Lineman at Municipal Utilities, in this way:
Mr Becker…If indeed your motivation wasn’t one of personal Gain.. Here is your opportunity to explain. What exactly was your reason to campaign against this Bond Issue?. Remember the Rules are honesty and ethics.
Here is my reply to Dennis:
The ordinance to put this on the ballot was passed on Aug 20 and given to the County Clerk on August 21st which was the very last day to submit ballot info. One would think that a $20M Sewer Bond Ballot issue by City Council would make the front page, but no, it was buried on page 6 in the middle of an article with the headline: City Council Apartment Request Denied (DAR Aug 21, pg 6A).
I asked Mayor DeGaris around October 18th if the sewer bill was going to be on the Nov ballot. He said he didn’t know if it would or not and gave me his view on it.
On Oct 23, the County Clerk published the ballot in the DAR and the language of the Sewer Bond finally made in the paper (as far as I am aware). Because the language didn’t include the amount of increase to everyone’s sewer bill; because the DAR had buried the issue leading up to this day; because the ballot language basically read like voters were just giving permission to spend $20M on the sewer and did not include “and put the mass of the note on the taxpayers shoulders” via their sewer bill: I decided that day to take it on.
Why would the city keep this quiet? Why did they not include the ramifications in the ballot language? Why did the DAR not write about this issue. I felt something was very wrong about this bond. It was during that research that I found in the minutes of the July 16th meeting of City Council that Bach requested $20M but said it might only cost be $15M. It was mentioned we could possibly receive a $3M grant (which could make it $12M). Councilman Johnny Brannum asked about the third option the DNR spoke about and he was told there are only two options being discussed. Brannum attempted to describe the third option and was again informed they were only looking at two options. With the second option being $90M, who wouldn’t chose the first option. For whatever the real reason, this bond issue was put on the ballot with very little discussion. The City Manager controlled the options and argument: $20M is better than $90M and 1% is better than 3% interest.
In my book, asking for a bond that could potentially be $8M more than the cost of the project gives way too much leeway for more corruption. I felt that fighting this bond was a part of fulfilling my vow to our community to oust this corrupt government and I began my campaign to defeat it.
I’ve also been asked “do you have a solution?” or “why do you want us to lose all those percentage points?” I would typically respond:
MU has over $11.5M in the bank and can pay the $1.2M in engineering fees necessary to know the complete/projected cost. The engineering work won’t be completed until the end of 2013. Once known, we would go back to the DNR and request the same bond interest rate they are currently offering and put that to a vote of the people clearly stating the financial impact of their vote. I’m confident our community would pass it just like they passed this bond, because our community is willing to sacrifice to help our community grow, but the Bond we just passed is not good for our community.
Additionally, if City Council REALLY cared about saving the city money, they would use sealed bids to award the engineering contract rather than just giving it to Smith & Co.