Jehl: A way out of debt

Russ Jehl for City Council logo.

News release from the Jehl for City Council campaign:

A Way Out of Debt

(August 27, 2011) – How have your last couple weeks been? As I’ve talked to voters, no one has been satisfied with the way Washington dealt with the debt crisis. The credit rating downgrade and the subsequent carnage in the stock markets have only added to the frustration.

As a nation, we have the opportunity to head the warnings—spending and debt do matter. Even if politicians freely spend with disregard to fiscal responsibility, the credit card is not unlimited. The proverb holds true that the “borrower is the servant to the lender.”

As a City, we have the opportunity to learn this lesson before we face major hardships from our loose spending and mounting debt. Over the last eight years, the Federal Government has spent its way into a crisis by increasing its debt 118%. Over the same time period, our City has surprisingly increased its debt by 145% percent.

Our city officials have claimed to have a balanced budget and claimed that their leadership was fiscally responsible. The first step to recovery is ridding oneself of denial. As a City, we have a spending problem. As a City, we have a debt problem. As a City, we need to make our money work harder. We need to become serious about not spending more than the revenue we bring in, especially as the lasting legacy of the recent events in Washington and Wall Street will likely be that borrowing will become more difficult.

Yes, the City has faced unprecedented challenges with flat revenues, accounting changes, and the expensive federal mandate to separate the storm water/sewer which have contributed to the debt. These factors only make strong leadership more necessary.

More than rhetoric, I have solutions for these challenges. With the right leadership, our City can reinstitute fiscal responsibility by cutting costs, making its dollars go further, prioritizing its expenditures, and increasing its revenue without raising taxes.

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[li]Increasing revenue without raising taxes- If the Light Lease settlement is saved rather than spent frivolously, it will produce perpetual income while also providing shelter as a large rainy day fund. (
[li]Prioritizing expenditures- City government is charged with providing public safety, well kept roads, and maintained water and sewer infrastructure. However, our leaders have cut corners on those core priorities to fund discretionary ventures, many of which have been boondoggles. ([/li]
[li]Making Dollars Go Further- For major projects such as road work, sewer work, or construction, our City overpays by approximately 10% by picking an artificially high wage scale and limits the contractor pool through its common wage policies. Consequently, fewer roads are paved, less construction work is done, and our tax dollars don’t go as far as they should. ([/li]
[li]Cutting Costs- Citizen’s Square parking lot is a prime example of overspending, where the City is paying $300,000 for a parking lot whose resurfacing should be less than half that cost. ([/li]

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