Original Post Feb 20, 2012
“I have long been concerned by the ability of our nation’s runaway spending and debt to weaken our national security, and now we are starting to see the real consequences. The President’s failure to tackle our debt is killing our economy, weakening our national security and threatening the very essence of America’s exceptionalism.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
And it is happening at the grassroots level here in Our Town, USA. In Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 1 , I explained why I was against a new road tax because the City had spent the current tax money on other projects and was looking toward the public to once again bail them out. But the problem with their spending and other towns like them across the nation runs much deeper than a few tenths of a percent tax. It’s their chronic overspending that is helping small towns like Ferndale contribute to the decline of our nation.
Currently the City of Ferndale is smack in the middle of improving Main Street between 3rd and Church Rd. The project has no geographical challenges such as river crossings or challenges such as rail tracks. The project isn’t adding more traffic capacity, no new intersections and the road as it is driven today would hardly be described by any Ferndale residents as a pressing transportation need. Yet, the City of Ferndale is spending about $8.4 million dollars on the remodeling of just over 1 mile of roadway.
For perspective Everson is reconstructing just about 1/2 mile of Mission Road at the same time this spring that Ferndale is completing the second 1/2 mile stretch of our Main Street project, but while Everson will spend $575,000 for a widened road bed, shoulders and a sidewalk, Ferndale will spend about $4.4 million on a road that includes two normal traffic lanes, a turn lane, two bike lanes, two side walks and a planter strip.
Why is Ferndale spending so much more money on their roads than other towns like Everson and more importantly, where are they getting the money?
Why Ferndale is spending so much is a tough question for a simple blogger, but I lean towards shopping addiction rather than the big truck little *&^_# reason which may come to mind for some.
New research reveals while some super-shoppers spend to boost self-esteem and band-aid other perceived internal deficits, others’ carts are driven by plain-old materialism. Whatever the motivation, however, researchers mostly agree that buying behaviors can range from frivolous fun to serious addiction.
LiveScience: The Truth About Shopaholics
With a mayor and seven council members there probably are more reasons they overspend, but there is only one place they get the money for road projects; we the taxpayers. We pay with local taxes and fees on gas, property, sales, trash, water, sewer etc, but the problem with shopaholics is not that they spend money it is that they spend money on things they want rather than things they need and they often overspend on credit rather than living within their means.
That is the same problem I see with Ferndale and other small towns across our nation. They are spending on things like landscape strips, bike lanes and roundabouts while other roads go without repair and maintenance. And if other small towns are like Ferndale they are also racking up city debt as well as relying on State and Federal funds to feed their shopping addiction just like Ferndale. In a recent Herald article, Mayor Jensen, when referring to several recently completed road projects, said,
State and federal funding have helped to make these projects successful.
Success is often a relative measure though. In this case Mayor Jensen seems to equate project completion with success. Let me explain why I disagree by using a current example from Ferndale’s 6-Year Financial plan 2012. Here’s a clip of financing for some of the current Main St. – 3rd to Church Road Project.
As you read through all of the various loans and grants it takes to fund this project, remember that no matter what it is called or where it comes from, ultimately all of the funding comes from we the taxpayer. So, in the case of Federal grant funds the project successfully added more debt onto an already unprecedented national debt. In the case of State grants funds the project was successful at putting our landscape strips and bike lanes into budget competition with necessary things like schools, parks, law enforcement etc. How dumb is that? Then there is the way that cities like Ferndale play with finances so they can pry even more state and federal money away from us.
Reconstruction projects are costly, but funding from a TBD may allow the city to use some of that funding to further leverage additional state and federal grant revenue.
Transportation Benefit District Sales Tax Election
Wait a minute. So some of that local tax that was touted as for road repair will actually be used to lever even more state and federal money out of our pockets? Does that count as a success? I guess that would depend on who has the lever and who has the pocket.
I like landscape strips and bike lanes as much as the next person, but more local debt, more state budget problems and an increased national deficit sounds like a nation in decline, not success.
6/26/12 Update: A couple of articles hit the Bellingham Herald over the last week or so which just reaffirms that at least the City of Ferndale doesn’t get it when it comes to overspending.
FERNDALE – A once-rural road now inside the city limits will be upgraded to city standards, complete with sidewalks and bicycle lanes, even if it means taking strips of property from unwilling property owners.
…the city is counting on future grants to fund part of the $5 million project. But the amenities seemed extravagant to some of the residents who spoke at Monday’s council meeting.
“While this project is necessary and long overdue, it should not be a lavish undertaking,” said Janella McKay, a Church Road resident. “Making it an affordable street should be a top priority.”
Overspending and arrogance on the part of the City administrators doesn’t reflect well on the people who elected them. I don’t think the average person in Ferndale is of the borrow from Peter to pay Paul variety, yet that is what the City is doing to support their spending. I think it’s a bit scary to find such a close similarity between this description of the new transportation tax in Ferndale and a description of a common internet scam.
Ferndale transportation tax:
Based on recent sales tax collections, the city expects to raise $300,000 a year for road improvements. That amount will be used each year as seed money to attract larger amounts in state or federal grants.
Source: Bellingham Herald
Most of these scams involve you supplying seed money, or disclosing confidential data used to deplete your savings account. While these cons are usually recognizable and safely ignored, enough suckers are fooled to make the effort profitable for the criminals who have no fear of legal retribution.
9/16/12 Update: Just a bit of follow up as the Church Road project approaches..
The City has also applied for grant funding on that project, Radder noted.Councilmember Goodrich wondered if there are any specific strings attached like a specific timeframe to spend the funding or matching funds.
Radder said that there will be required matching funds, and the City intends to use Transportation Benefit District funding as that match.
Ferndale City Council meeting September 4, 2012
As they said new tax revenue from the newly formed Transportation Benefit District will be used as seed/matching funds, not to just repair Church road, but rather give it an extreme makeover and put the taxpayers in extreme debt. And again, not saying that anyone in the City of Ferndale is doing anything illegal, just wrong and a little bit on the underhanded side. I sincerely mean that and here is just another example. This is the first sentence you read at the City’s Transportation Benefit District page
The Ferndale Transportation Benefit District is designed to preserve and maintain the City’s transportation infrastructure.
I challenge anyone to look at what is going on on Main and Church Streets and call that “preservation and maintenance. Voters hear “preserve and maintain” while the City hears the sound of seed money.