It occurred to me the other day that the Tea Party carries no responsibility for providing services to citizens. The only thing they do is distort and inflame.
City Councils get elected to serve the wishes of citizens. They look around. They listen to citizens on phone calls, at the grocery store and at council meetings.
The Tea Party caters to whiners and moaners – most of which make use of city services but don’t want to pay for the services they use or are provided for their use.
Local governments evaluate needs and wants of the citizens plus they have to prioritize to fit with the means of the budget as resources are never sufficient to do everything. They make decisions based on their best knowledge and skills, always within a sense of fairness across generations, geography and social strata.
The Tea Party could care less about the citizens. They have no interest in listening unless it’s someone wanting to complain about paying for services. They only want to step in to play Whack-a-Mole.
It’s easy to destroy rather than to build. It’s easier to lob a grenade than it is to enter into an honest dialogue.
City Council and staffs make great efforts to tell the municipal story accurately and fairly.
The Tea Party consists of Quintessential Distortionists.
Let me provide an example:
Tea Party: “OMG, look at this wasteful spending. The General Fund has doubled in just the last 10 years!”
Local Government: “Yes, but the population has gone up 78% and Inflation has increased to make up 20% of that change. The 2% difference is mostly due to
- New or expanded programs requested by the citizens and blessed by the council,
- Unfunded mandates.
- Big-ticket items such as public safety body cameras and similar things approved by the council.
- Things that didn’t exist 10 years ago, such as investments in IT security to address ransomware attacks.
An Open Invitation to Tea Party Distortionists
Let’s make a deal. How about you and I sit down and analyze a city of your choice. I hope it is one I know little or nothing about so we will be on level ground or maybe I will be disadvantaged.
We will be civil and look only at the facts. You will allow me to analyze historical data through the adopted FY 2020 year budget. We will use audited financial data from FY 2018 backward.
We will both discover, at the same time, the number of employees, the property tax revenues and the total General Fund expenditures that have been when adjusted for population and inflation.
If we cannot tell from public documents, we will then ask city management about any anomalies or jumps or drops to explain what may appear to be deviations from trends. For instance, if there has been the opening of a fire station or recreation center during the study period, we will have an answer to better understand the data.
In addition, and in the same spirit, we will ask the city officials to tell us how growth over a decade came about? How did programs get added or expanded? Who asked for them to be included in the budget, and why did the elected official say yes?
Were any of the budget additions in the past decade due to unfunded mandates? Do you know what those are and how they were imposed on local governments?
Then I will ask you to tell me what part of the budget growth you find wasteful or not of your liking. What part of the city services would you cut? It is unfair for you to blob me or the city with no more than a judgment on the dollar increase over a period of time. We can’t easily respond to blobs. Help us by specifically pointing to the underlying element(s) of your complaint.
Do you attend council meetings, and especially workshops, to learn about the evolution of city services? Tell me how you gain insights that enable you to make statements or draw conclusions about budget growth. That sounds like a critical statement, and I don’t mean for it to be so. I’m simply wanting to understand how you evaluate what a city needs or wants and how you arrive at findings and conclusions.
That is, if you will agree to enter into a dialogue with me so that we can arrive at a reasonable position.
BTW, do you even live in the city for which you are criticizing or making a judgement?