Of Moochers and Looters

As the senior center and preschool initiatives appear to be gaining momentum, we all know from experience that they will both end up costing way more than what is initially pitched. Capital projects, after all, are the holy grail of money grabs. Obligatory Painful Reminders The Blankenship parking lot went from $69K to $265K; Dredging … Continue reading Of Moochers and Looters

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

Sixteen years ago, Partners for Progress successfully lobbied the city to spend over $15 million of your (the taxpayer) money to launch a major development on the West End of Oak Ridge. The promises were enough to make people starry eyed. There was to be a picturesque subdivision of nearly 4,000 homes along with an industrial complex that, when … Continue reading Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

City of Oak Ridge Financial Snapshot: Why Your City’s Financial Matters Matter

I was recently invited to speak to the Anderson County Tea Party. The following were my talking points. Critical documents are hyper-linked in blue. Why Your City’s Financial Matters Matter  Just about anything that happens (or doesn’t) in Oak Ridge has a direct tie to money, your money. Local government spending directly impacts your wallet. Think not only … Continue reading City of Oak Ridge Financial Snapshot: Why Your City’s Financial Matters Matter

Afterthoughts on the 2015 Budget Discussions

A lot of incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, information has been disseminated to the public regarding the FY2015 city and school budgets. Such inconsistencies compound citizen frustrations as they begin to feel the impact of both bodies’ decisions. I would like to offer some clarification along with supporting resources which are hyperlinked below. First, let me … Continue reading Afterthoughts on the 2015 Budget Discussions

2015 Oak Ridge School Budget Alternatives/Considerations

My last in-depth analysis of the school budget was in 2011. It's interesting to see what has changed and what hasn't. You can read for yourself here. Dr. Borchers and Members of the Board of Education: I have reviewed your budget proposals and would like to share my thoughts for consideration in your final deliberations.  I … Continue reading 2015 Oak Ridge School Budget Alternatives/Considerations

YPOR Presentation: City of Oak Ridge Financial Overview

Why Your City's Financial Matters Matter 1. Just about anything that happens (or doesn't) in Oak Ridge has a direct tie to money, your money. 2. Local government spending directly impacts your wallet. Think not only property taxes, but sales taxes, utilities, fees, permits, fines, etc. 3. The growth or decline of our community, in very … Continue reading YPOR Presentation: City of Oak Ridge Financial Overview

Report on the 2/21/14 Joint Meeting Between Oak Ridge City Council and the BOE

For the first time in two years (and since I joined council), the Oak Ridge Board of Education (BOE) and City Council held a joint meeting. The agenda was heavy and the mayor unilaterally established a time limit of 1 ½ hours at the very beginning. The meeting room was packed and a crowd formed … Continue reading Report on the 2/21/14 Joint Meeting Between Oak Ridge City Council and the BOE

Manufactured Crisis: A Joint Venture After All?

In order to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the recent school system fiasco, I’d like to expound upon my characterization of it as a “manufactured crisis.” I will first provide a brief summary and then, for those who are interested in the details, I will elaborate. I will conclude with my suggestion for … Continue reading Manufactured Crisis: A Joint Venture After All?

Why It Will Cost Even More To Flush & What You Can Do About It

On September 9th, your City Council will likely vote to approve additional water/sewer rate increases. When combined with the last two increases, the average user’s bill will have spiked 62% in just 34 months. Subsequently, should council adopt the fully proposed schedule through 2019, most residents and businesses will be paying double what they were … Continue reading Why It Will Cost Even More To Flush & What You Can Do About It

THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 7/8/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the July 8th, 2013 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the August … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 7/8/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

July 8th Agenda/Updates —— Mall/Land Bank/Sign Ordinance

Hello! I hope you are all having a wonderful summer! Here are the highlights of current council activities: Monday night we will hold our regular monthly meeting. The complete agenda can be found here. The significant items are as follows and you can see my questions/concerns to our city manager in the email pasted at … Continue reading July 8th Agenda/Updates —— Mall/Land Bank/Sign Ordinance

THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/28/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FINALIZATION OF FY2014 BUDGET

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the May 28th, 2013 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/28/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FINALIZATION OF FY2014 BUDGET

THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/16/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FY2014 BUDGET

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the May 16th, 2013 City Council Special Meeting. The complete agenda packet can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the May 28th Regular Meeting Agenda packet. Note that … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/16/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FY2014 BUDGET

THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/13/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FIRST READING OF THE FY2014 BUDGET

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items voted upon during the May 13th, 2013 regular city council meeting. The complete agenda packet and full video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website as part of the May 28th Regular Meeting Agenda packet. VII. … Continue reading THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 5/13/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/FIRST READING OF THE FY2014 BUDGET

May 13th City Council Meeting Agenda Items/FY2014 City Budget First Reading

Friends, City Council will hold its next regular meeting this coming Monday night. A complete copy of the agenda packet can be found here. I’ve extracted the most notable items and pasted below with the most significant item being the first reading of our annual city budget. As promised during my campaign, I have endeavored … Continue reading May 13th City Council Meeting Agenda Items/FY2014 City Budget First Reading

My Response to the Chamber of Commerce/USEC Claims

In an apparent last ditch effort to save their inflated annual taxpayer subsidy of $269K, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce Chairman, Stephen Whitson and President, Parker Hardy, responded here to my column in which I challenged the value that the chamber provides to the city. Ironically, rather than refute any of my specific points, they … Continue reading My Response to the Chamber of Commerce/USEC Claims

Changing the Game of Economic Development in Oak Ridge: Part 2

The topic of city council’s work session this month was Economic Development. Since the city manager’s initial presentation to council on the subject in January, the two most heavily funded organizations (of the Economic Diversification Fund) have made multiple attempts to persuade council to continue funding them at nearly the same levels as in the … Continue reading Changing the Game of Economic Development in Oak Ridge: Part 2

The Rest of the EPA Mandate Story/Final Plea to My Fellow Councilmembers

Since I first published this article, council has increased sewer/water rates multiple times and is poised to do so again in 2016. To date, rates, on average have increased by over 100% for water and by approximately 135% for sewer. The following has been submitted to all local newspapers for publication: Last month, Oak Ridgers … Continue reading The Rest of the EPA Mandate Story/Final Plea to My Fellow Councilmembers

ALTERNATIVES TO INCURRING ADDITIONAL DEBT

I submitted the following to the Oak Ridge City Council in an effort to explore alternative funding of the EPA mandated changes in our sewer system. Upon learning of an error, I've made a correction regarding ownership of the Chamber of Commerce building. ALTERNATIVES TO INCURRING ADDITIONAL DEBT -         As suggested by Trina Baughn 1/14/2013 … Continue reading ALTERNATIVES TO INCURRING ADDITIONAL DEBT

Items of Interest on the City Council Agenda for Monday

Hello and Happy New Year! City Council will hold its first regular meeting of the year this coming Monday night. A complete copy of the agenda packet can be found here. The most important item on the agenda involves increasing your debt load by $18 million which will result in a 3rd and possibly more … Continue reading Items of Interest on the City Council Agenda for Monday

The 2 Most Important Items (on tomorrow night’s city council agenda)

City Council has a number of significant matters to address in our meeting tomorrow night (see the complete agenda packet here). Ideally, I would like to provide summaries of each in advance of these meetings for the public. Time limitations prevent me from doing so fully this time, but I will comment on two items … Continue reading The 2 Most Important Items (on tomorrow night’s city council agenda)

Does Oak Ridge Have a Revenue Problem or a Spending Problem?

My opponents have repeatedly stated that we have a “revenue problem.”  They do not see our debt as a problem and believe that the solution is to simply increase revenue. Translation: They want MORE of your money. The truth is, revenues aren’t down. They are actually up by $55Million for the last 10 years. The … Continue reading Does Oak Ridge Have a Revenue Problem or a Spending Problem?

Twenty Four Years of Payments and Decades More to Go!

At under 45 minutes, this month’s city council meeting may have been the shortest meeting they’ve ever held. While it was a nice change from the normal 3 hour meetings, I wonder why council didn’t take the opportunity to discuss anything of significance given our city’s various, not to mention serious, problems.  After all, they … Continue reading Twenty Four Years of Payments and Decades More to Go!

Do YOU Own a $38,832 Car? Parting Gift for the Super?

6/22/2012 Email to Oak Ridge City Council Council – Please see this agenda for the Oak Ridge Schools BOE meeting scheduled for Monday night. In it, you will find on page 36 an FY13 budget amendment to adjust for council’s decision last month. Of greater concern to me, are two other items. First, on page … Continue reading Do YOU Own a $38,832 Car? Parting Gift for the Super?

Capital Spending Sources – Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmm?

The following information supports my claims from my column this week. I will publish the column in its entirety here on Friday, but here is a summary: Oak Ridge city government will use $10 million more of your money for the high school project to cover what the schools are withholding while they (the city) … Continue reading Capital Spending Sources – Things That Make You Go Hmmmmmm?

Strike 3!

Tonight for a third time, City Council was faced with a resolution to approve a $900K increase to the schools' 2012 budget. The administration appropriated this additional money PRIOR to receiving legal approval by council, some 9 months after council first declined a similar request. Though the mayor closed public comment on the agenda item, … Continue reading Strike 3!

Data? We Don’t Need No Stinking Data.

The Oak Ridge Observer ran an editorial last week entitled “Year-Round School, Take 2.” In short, the newspaper felt they'd jumped the gun in their earlier criticism of the Oak Ridge Schools administration and staff for not being more aggressive in providing the BOE with information on a potential year round school calendar for the … Continue reading Data? We Don’t Need No Stinking Data.

New Senior Center Project Moving Full Speed Ahead – Public Meeting this Tuesday

****The first public meeting to solicit input for a new Senior Enrichment Center has been announced (with less than 3 business days’ notice) and is scheduled for Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.in the Social Room of the Oak Ridge Civic Center.*** Please consider attending Tuesday’s meeting and letting the city know that we … Continue reading New Senior Center Project Moving Full Speed Ahead – Public Meeting this Tuesday

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right on Senior Center

On August 8th, city council unanimously approved a resolution to pay $15,000 to an architectural and engineering firm to study the need for the construction of a new Senior Enrichment Center. The City of Oak Ridge website has a time table posted entitled “Projected Schedule for New Senior Enrichment Center.”  According to the Recreation and … Continue reading Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right on Senior Center

$168 Million and Counting – Email to Council Re: $10 Million Bond for EPA Mandates

It's that time of year again - time to drown our future grandkids in more debt. I sent the following email to council regarding an important item on tonight's agenda.  Please read and respond to council with your thoughts. They need to hear from as many of us as possible. Your voice counts in Oak Ridge, … Continue reading $168 Million and Counting – Email to Council Re: $10 Million Bond for EPA Mandates

Recommended Adjustments to the OR BOE 2012 Budget

For the Oak Ridge schools' 2012 budget, the Board of Education is requesting a 7.32 percent increase in funds from the city, $1,059,171 more than last year.However, it is critical that we maintain, not increase, funding, given the serious state of our economy, our extremely high tax rate, and the overwhelming level of debt we … Continue reading Recommended Adjustments to the OR BOE 2012 Budget

Screwing Over the Poor and Disabled Kids

So, here’s what happened. For whatever reason, the school administration has been hell bent on cutting the a.m. transportation to the preschool (our head start program that services the most disadvantaged children in our community). When they tried it last year, as I discussed here, they claimed that it was to increase instructional time. The … Continue reading Screwing Over the Poor and Disabled Kids

Proposal for the ORSB FY2010 Budget Adjustments

I submitted the following to the ORSB this evening. The formatting isn't as pretty as it should be, but it's been a very long day, so this is what you get.------------------------------------RECOMMENDATIONS Propose that all staff be afforded a 1% pay raise in lieu of a step increase and that the school system forego the $135,000 … Continue reading Proposal for the ORSB FY2010 Budget Adjustments

Aug 23, 07 LTE (Observer) School Attendance and Spending

Because the school funding campaign has already begun with the numerous articles about the need for a new preschool (and you can bet a new administration building will be thrown in again as it was a few years ago), I decided to respond to the articles recently run about how enrollment is up and how … Continue reading Aug 23, 07 LTE (Observer) School Attendance and Spending

Jul 20, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) City Council’s Obligation

Should City Council inquire about specifics in the OR School Budget?There have been a lot of public statements made that our City Council has “no business” even looking at, let alone questioning, specific line items in the School Budget. For the life of me, I cannot understand the basis of this belief. Our City Charter … Continue reading Jul 20, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) City Council’s Obligation

Jul 16, 07 Submission to City Council – BEP Discrepancies

After having received a substantial increase in funding from council and having received $1.9 million unexpected dollars from the state’s new BEP plan, the OR School Board still cites insufficient funding for the 2007/2008 school year.On July 11, 2007, the school board held a work session to discuss the $1.9 million BEP funds. Their attached … Continue reading Jul 16, 07 Submission to City Council – BEP Discrepancies

Jul 5, 07 LTE (Observer)/Jun 28, 07 Statement to ORSB

For many years now, the Oak Ridge School Board has requested additional funding from the City Council while inferring that our schools are in jeopardy. While certain members have indicated that they do not desire “to pit one city service against another” year after year, this is exactly what has happened. When council cannot meet … Continue reading Jul 5, 07 LTE (Observer)/Jun 28, 07 Statement to ORSB

Jun 18, 07 LTE (appr) / Email to ORSB RE: Return of Funds to CC

With the signing of the new BEP by Gov. Bredeson last week, the OR School Board has indicated that the Oak Ridge Schools will receive $1.9 million additional dollars for FY2008. This amount will more than cover the $140,000 cited shortfall as well as the reinstatement of the bus transportation previously cut to students living … Continue reading Jun 18, 07 LTE (appr) / Email to ORSB RE: Return of Funds to CC

Jun 3, 07 Email to ORSB – Confirmation of No Intent to Reinstate Transportation in 08

I've sent the following to all members of the school board. I believe I know the answer, but wanted to be certain that I understood correctly. Maybe this is something everyone but me had already understood, but, then again, maybe not. ORSB Members, In my continued quest to understand the budgeting process and thus, participate … Continue reading Jun 3, 07 Email to ORSB – Confirmation of No Intent to Reinstate Transportation in 08

May 31, 07 LTE (Observer) – The Big Picture – Pre Election

There’s a lot of uncertainty in our city’s future and our struggle to find answers continues. We lack a consensus on what factors are essential to our vitality. I don’t claim to have the answers as to what those factors may be, but I do know that increased taxes and increased debt DO NOT make … Continue reading May 31, 07 LTE (Observer) – The Big Picture – Pre Election

May 18, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) Opposition to increased Property Tax

Loudest to be heard at expense of others As an educated, school-supporting, taxpaying citizen of Oak Ridge with children in the Oak Ridge School System, I am voicing my OPPOSITION to the proposed property tax increase to be voted on May 21st. Do I support our schools and our educators? Yes — as I’ve stated … Continue reading May 18, 07 LTE (Oak Ridger) Opposition to increased Property Tax