Picture an unholy alliance of local government liberals and Federal bureaucrats, then take that to an even more frightening level by factoring in the classic liberal love of public transportation. These cash-burning forces converge at the one city in America that combines the worst excesses of local and Federal government: Washington, D.C. Recently, a group of city officials, Amtrak management, and a local developer announced a plan to redevelop the iconic Union Station in Washington, D.C. Union. In presenting the details of the project, they swore that the footprint of the building would remain the same, and the original architecture of the century-old building would remain unchanged. Hmmm. Same footprint. Same architecture. To the casual observer, that might mean they are doing some functional upgrades, for a reasonable price.
In Richard Daley’s Chicago of the 50s, greed, corruption, and embezzling by local Democrats was widely accepted as business as usual, and that tradition continues in Illinois to this day. How widely accepted? A friend who was born in Chicago tells this story:
Some critics (me) contend that local governments slice their budgets into far too many “special funds” that are designed to protect pet projects, so that a surplus in one fund – let’s say the Porcupine Mating Area EIR Fund – can’t be used to fill a deficit in another special fund – like the Bike Share Feasability Study Fund.
In the heartland, where the cost of living is assumed to be more reasonable than San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, you might expect public sector compensation to be more reasonable, as well. But not in Joliet, IL. In 2008, they hired Thomas A. Thanas as the new City Manager, at a starting base salary of $189,000. For 2011, the base salary increased to $196,500. Joliet has a population of 147,433, but to manage that mid-sized city, Thanas now gets a higher base salary than any governor in all 50 states. In addition to his salary, $7,500 of taxpayer money goes into a deferred compensation retirement plan. This is on top of what taxpayers pay into his pension plan: $28,800 into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) pension. Bulking up the total, Joliet taxpayers also pay for $6,000 in an estimated annual car allowance; an estimated $4,000 in continuing education, fees and costs to maintain the Manager’s personal law license; and an estimated annual $17,500 in premium payments for life, health, and dental insurances.
I wish that were the end of the list, but there’s more. When the City Manager was hired in 2008, he negotiated a vacation bank and a sick bank. (Not to be confused with Bank of America, or any other bank bailed out by our tax dollars.) His vacation bank of 4 weeks is valued at $15,100 and his sick hours bank of 1,500 hours is valued at over $141,300. Let’s push in for a closeup of that line item. That’s not a few days for the sniffles. That’s a total of 37.5 40 hour weeks to be sick. So by 2011, the taxpayer liability associated with these two “banks” totaled approximately $156,400.
In case any outraged Joliet taxpayers storm City Hall with pitchforks and torches, Thanas can fall back on a very generous severance clause. If terminated for any reason except felony conviction or official misconduct or abandonment of office, taxpayers owe this guy a lump sum payment equal to one full year of base salary and “any other benefits paid by the city’s fringe benefit ordinance”. So, in case the city of Joliet lets him go for anything but committing a felony or calling in sick for 38 straight weeks, his lump sum severance is $375,900.
Could there possibly be more? Unfortunately, yes. Even with all this in his contract, the city manager claimed that he was owed an additional 9.5 years of extra retirement credits. This would have added 9.5 credit years and $760,000 of credit “earnings” to the calculation of the City Manager’s future pension. Inexplicably, the City of Joliet agreed to back the manager’s claim. If wiser heads had not prevailed, Joliet taxpayers would have been responsible for this new massive lifetime pension liability. Fortunately, the application for this unearned pension was rejected by Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund administrators. Still not satisfied, Thanas appealed it to the full IMRF Board of Trustees, who then issued a final rejection. It’s too bad they couldn’t also have issued the Joliet City Council a conscience.
I got this story from a conservative blogger in Madison WI named David Blaska. No joke. A conservative in Madison. The story is this: Because so many of Madison’s teachers called in sick so they could visit the whine-in over Gov. Scott Walker’s new law removing their ability to bargain collectively on their dental care and similar perks, the schools in Madison were closed for four days. That amounts to nearly 32 hours that the impressionable youth of Madison were not being taught that Mother Earth is becoming warmer than McDonalds coffee, or that sex is nobody’s business but the five people involved.
This closure, for some reason, gave the Madison School Board an unplanned surplus of approximately $1.2 million. But instead of buying traditional Madison school supplies like Saul Alinsky textbooks or condom dummies, School Board member Ed Hughes had a novel idea. Give all 4,030 teachers and staff a $200 gift card plus $60 to cover the tax liability created by receiving an additional $200.
Yep. They deserted their students, and demonstrated that it’s OK to not show up in school if you’re in a snit. So they get publicly rewarded for acting like the juvenile brats they are paid to civilize.
Total cost of this madness? $1,047,800.
Just to prove I’m not making this up, here’s the full text of the proposed amendment:
Provide $200 Year-End Bonuses to All Staff
We have an unplanned surplus of approximately $1.2 million as a result of the four days schools were closed during February and the way that teachers and staff agreed to make up the lost time without adding additional days to the school year.
This amendment would utilize about $1,050,000 of this windfall to pay for $200 year-end bonuses to all staff, plus the additional taxes payable on the bonuses.
Our teachers and staff will be sustaining significant financial sacrifices in 2011-2012 as a result of the changes in the collective bargaining agreements. If we are able to provide some unexpected funds for them this year, it seems like sound policy to do so.
Consistent with the thinking behind the proposal for the creation of a defeasance escrow account, it is prudent to incur one-time expenses during this fiscal year.I propose that the bonuses be provided in the form of $200 gift cards from Dane Buy Local, to be distributed near the end of this school year. The cards are redeemable at local businesses.
I have spoken to a staff person at Dane Buy Local about their participating members partnering with us on this effort by encouraging participating businesses to provide special discounts to teachers and staff using the card as a way of demonstrating community support for the great work our teachers and staff perform. I am confident that many local businesses would join in the promotion.
For those who have specific financial obligations for which they’d like to use the bonus money, I am told that arrangements can be made such that the cards could be used anywhere VISA cards are accepted.
In addition to the cards, I propose that we also pay the additional taxes teachers and staffwill incur as a result of receiving the bonuses.
Savings / Added Costs:
I am told we have approximately 4,030 staff, including teachers, clerical support, custodians, EAs/SEAs, security assistants, and food service workers. I am also told that we should plan on about 30% for tax payments. The total cost would therefore be about 4,030 x $260 = $1,047,800.
As a result of this amendment, the projected increase in the fund balance as a result of 2011-2012 operations would be decreased by approximately $1,047,800.
May 18, 2011
Staff would realize an increase in their 2010-2011 compensation. Spending in local businesses would be encouraged, thereby benefiting the local economy. Local businesses would be provided an opportunity to demonstrate in a tangible way the community’s appreciation of the dedication and hard work of our talented teachers and staff during challenging times.
Note: I am told that it may require an MOU with MTI in order for us to give bonuses to staff.
Most people are familiar with the concept of a snipe hunt, but few of us have ever actually rummaged about the weeds in a campground, armed with only a flashlight and a paper sack, attempting to nab one of the elusive little critters.
Now that Obama has been gone for two years and liberals and progressives are still outnumbered in the Senate, some people think the country is returning to a degree of normalcy. I disagree. Because I’ve seen liberals, progressives, and twits in local governments do far more damage to our freedom than deep state politicians in the federal or state governments could dream of.
Until recently, I lived 50 miles north of San Francisco, so I could write a whole book about the craziness in my former back yard, but unfortunately, the fools in local government are spread across more zip codes than you can imagine. In fact, in America’s 50 largest cities, 34 mayors are Democrats, 13 are Republicans, and three are Independent.
So in this blog, I’ll bring you local horror stories from coast to coast; from dense urban conglomerations and dinky hamlets alike. What kind of outrages can you find in here? I’ve lumped them into three basic categories: the massive amounts of your money that local governments waste; the stunning intrusions they make on your personal liberty, and the things they do that are so flat-out dumb that nobody could possibly make this stuff up. Three examples: