ACP received a call from Mayor Josh Cohen's spokesperson Phill McGowan last night to explain that the mayor was introducing a bill on first reader to expand the city's recently expanded ten million dollar credit line to a twenty million dollar credit line.
Phill should have asked if I was sitting down first.
ACP and The Capital have written about how the city seemed to be running out of cash again and in a recent post, ACP opined that the mayor seemed out of control as much as the spending, when at a recent council work session, Alderwoman Finlayson asked what Cohen was doing to control overspending at the departmental level. Cohen hemmed and hawed and appeared not to have controls in place, even though department heads are his appointees.
On second thought, maybe I should not be surprised. This writer and other observers repeatedly questioned the wisdom of the city borrowing more money to keep operating and making payroll over the last few months. Prior to Cohen taking office, the previous mayor (Uhh...that was...er what was her name??) managed to overspend AND not maintain the required case reserves. Cohen, who has insisted on fighting to maintain the existing strong powers of the mayor instead of changing to the council-manager style of government wants to lead and manage. Cohen, supported by some council members, said it was necessary to open a line of credit and began to borrow to keep operating. Instead of severely cutting costs, shrinking our bloated bureaucracy, laying off workers, Cohen managed to convince enough council members to borrow, despite widespread concerns expressed by many citizens as some council members.
In a conversation with McGowan a few weeks ago, he told me that this would be a short-term line of credit and that in the fall when tax revenues are transmitted to city coffers, the loan would be repaid for only about $40,000 or $50,000 in interest. Only. Not a bad deal....if....if...and if all Cohen's projections and estimates worked out....and obviously they have not.
It gets worse. In last night's conversation, out of the blue, McGowan said to me that "I'm not worried. We have a good city manager". Really? First of all, we don't have a city manager, we have a renamed city administrator. Second, this person still reports to Cohen. Cohen still holds the power. Third, this same so-called "city manager" Mike Malinoff headed up the city's much maligned Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Protection which came under intense public fire at every single mayoral forum during last fall's election campaign for its bloated, bureaucratic and business-unfriendly permitting process.
AND...if having this so-called "city manager" is so great, why was Cohen unable to clearly state how he and that person wsere going to control overspending by their department heads? City manager or not, Cohen is spending us into further and further debt. We cannot continue to borrow. There is only one thing to be done and it is the same, consistent message that this writer, many local activists and some aldermen, particularly Ross Arnett have been saying all along--cut jobs to cut spending.
Cohen must seem to think we can borrow our way out of this. If only all of Cohen's projections come true. That's a big IF. It's his show.