By Martin Farrell — Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
Finance Director Glenda Jay is to be congratulated for Tuesday’s clear and detailed summary of our midyear city budget. This is the good news.
Ever since former Finance Director Barbara Smith was first isolated, then elbowed out of her position two years before she was to retire, council Katzenjammers Patti Walker, Gayle Washburn, Jamey Brooks, and Brian Sipes have given us (was it three?) unusable budgets. The interim super team of Pennell-Wooner (how many hundreds of thousands did that cost?) struggled to produce a colorful new budget which didn’t get anywhere, despite Sipe’s triumphant waving of the document from the chambers floor (reminding me a little of Chamberlain’s WWII antics). I believe a second effort was unsuccessfully attempted as well, praised effusively by Mr. Brooks. Then, due to the diligent efforts of Ms. Jay, some three years later, we have success. Again, thank you Ms. Jay.
The four council members attending Tuesday’s council meeting bore the clueless, deer in the headlights expression, as they contemplated Fillmore’s fiscal fate.
They were no doubt thinking about the bad news. Fillmore is bankrupt (technically if not legally). It’s a no-show for the Towne Theatre which is more than $300,000 in debt, and the swimming pool is drowned in red ink, nearly $400,000. Virtually all other accounts are deeply in the red as well.
I left the meeting before City Manager Yvonne Quiring explained a reason for our fiscal plight. I’m told she said the State of California had overpaid the city millions in past years, and was now reclaiming the overpayment. If so, this certainly exculpates Ms. Quiring for this particular situation. I have to wonder why the council didn’t recognize the overpayments (as one would recognize the bank had deposited large sums of money into your account by mistake), why this money was spent, and on what, and what was done to soften the terms of repayment. This mistake by California bureaucrats was bad indeed, but certainly not the only reason for the city’s deadly deficit. Before the Katzenjammers came to the council, the city had an enviable 40 percent budget surplus and was set to develop 700 houses and new businesses in north Fillmore.
And, what would a council meeting drama be without cameo parts played by the tag-team of Gary (former failed mayor and city non-resident) Creagle and my nemesis Bob Stroh? Creagle wanted to be sure the Gazette got it right, Stroh blathered on about how Measures H and I were a good thing, even though it wiped out existing businesses, destroyed jobs, cost millions in lost revenue, wasted perhaps a half-million in North Fillmore Specific Plan work (7 years?) and made it practically impossible to develop the last and largest space within city limits. The properties remain fallow to this day.