Posts Tagged ‘Mayor Jensen’

Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 2: How small towns like Ferndale contribute to the decline of our nation.

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

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.

main 3rd to church

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.

 

acct 308

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.

 

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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

Internet scam:

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 1

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

A recent Whatcom View article titled  Mayor says Ferndale tax increase needed to repair roads can be credited with offering sufficient irritation that I found the time to again write in this blog.

Recently the City of Ferndale has been emphasizing and funding extreme street makeovers like the Second Ave Extension, including the useless park next to a rail yard.  Now the Mayor says that funding is “woefully short” for basic road maintenance and repairs so the must ask the voters for a two-tenths of 1% sales tax increase.

Anyone who has driven on the hill in Ferndale knows that there are roads that need repairing.  That fact is not in doubt.  Even so, I can’t support this tax increase because a tax increase is not required to afford the repairs.   Rather, the City needs to get back to focusing already available funds on repair and scheduled maintenance of existing roads so that we get maximum life from them.  It was while attending a City Council meeting that I first heard mention of  a time in the last few years where funding for street repairs was cut.  The Mayor didn’t mention it in his letter, but it was briefly mentioned in another Herald Article.

Malpezzi said he voted against putting the increase request on the ballot because he didn’t believe the public would support it.

And he said the issue was one of priorities, noting that money that would have come from the solid waste tax to pay for street maintenance and repair has instead been shifted elsewhere, referring specifically to help pay for a new police station.

capture suspend maintenance fundingRight on both accounts!  I don’t think the public will support the increase and It looks like it could have been in 2009 that funding for road maintenance was  suspended, though I’m not a financial expert so I could be mistaken.   However, even an amateur review of Ferndale’s current budget and budgets for the last 4-5 years shows that overall revenue from property taxes, sales taxes and various utility taxes have steadily increased and are projected to keep steadily increasing.  Let me repeat that since that is not what you hear from the City officials or read in the news, overall revenue from property taxes, sales taxes and various utility taxes have steadily increased and are projected to keep steadily increasing.

What I also determined during my quick review,  was that what the City refers to as  a revenue shortfall in the road repair budget  is simply the negative effects of excessive spending, excessive borrowing, misguided priorities and what amounts to a financial account shell game where the council and mayor regularly “tap” funds from one account for use in another often unrelated account.  I was actually amazed at the the amount of  fund “tapping” going on in the City government.   Am I the only one who didn’t know that our Solid Waste Taxes have been systematically inflated, not for Solid Waste disposal, but for leveraging loans and/or state and federal grants for new streets or perhaps a police station. Don’t believe me?

SWT funding If you read the rest of this Request for Council Action don’t miss the list of annual 1% tax increases on the second page.  it’s quite a long list of increases that adds up to so much more revenue than this little two tenths of 1% business.

So really this boils down to the fact that the City of Ferndale does not need a tax increase to repair roads.  The have plenty of revenue to fund street repair without a sales tax increase.  Sadly, instead of taking care of business, they’ve gone the route of shuffling things around, using the money elsewhere, doing the extreme makeover thing and then coming back to the people with a sob story.  Call me cruel, but I say no to the tax increase the same way I say no to the hungry kid crying for more lunch money because he bought candy with his on the way to school.

Sorry, but No!

And I hope you make a better choice next time.

Coming up

Just Say No to the City of Ferndale – Part 2: How small towns like Ferndale contribute to the financial decline of our nation.

Signs and Taxes in Ferndale

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

I had a chance to drop in on last night’s Ferndale City Council meeting. I was an hour late, but enough in time to hear a little public as well as council opinion on a couple of the latest news items: the proposal for an add on gas tax and political signs.

In my opinion the thought of boosting the retail price of gas in Ferndale by even 1 penny, is ludicrous. We already buy gas only as needed in Ferndale, trying to save fill ups for trips we are already making to Costco or Fred Meyers. The bigger the price difference, the more we’ll avoid Ferndale.

I’ve also thought it pretty chump of the council to consider this tax at all, because it is authorized as a way to fund road repairs from all the Canadian traffic. Well the Canadians are wearing out the roads around Costco and Bellis Fair, not here in Ferndale. Councilman Malpezzi was the only one I heard make reference to this fact, while the dishonest nature of considering this didn’t seem to bother others.

In the end the council tied on whether to propose this to the voters and then failed the measure after Mayor Jensen cast the tie breaker vote.

I found it a bit surprising coming from a mayor that has headed so much spending, but I guess that’s why Ferndale has so much debt. Politically it was probably a good move from a man who is campaigning to keep his seat as Mayor of Ferndale; nothing will kill a campaign quicker than stomping on small businesses and telling voters that they need to pay higher taxes.

On the other interesting topic in Ferndale, the Council voted unanimously to firm up campaign/political sign rules and allow 4′ x 8′ signs in areas other than residential. Since everyone there readily admitted that they never enforced the existing rules, ya gotta’ wonder why they are making a change at all?   And today in a FB post about the newly annexed areas, City of Ferndale made a special note that,

The City also will enforce the City’s sign code in this area. Offsite signs that were not permitted by Whatcom County are to be removed.

You wonder where all this is coming from and with the little tiff over Norbert Rojsza display, are they planning on starting signage enforcement now, and if so on who will the enforcement fall?

And did I mention also that at the Ferndale Council Meeting there was a point made that the fine for violating the sign code was not just $500, but $500 per day and penalty could include jail time?   And did I mention that this discussion brought a lot of smiles and a chuckle or two from the Council, City employees and Mayor?  Check it out Audio Clip

Where were the Ferndale Sign Police when the mondo casino sign went up off Slater?   Oh, that’s right the City worked with the Tribes to put up that sign which advertises gambling and smoking, yet they seem poised to come down hard on anyone seeking office in Ferndale.  What the heck?