Risks for Community Center-YMCA deal

I appeared before the City Council Oct. 9 to make a public comment about something I read in the Sammamish Review concerning the proposed YMCA-Community Center deal and advisory vote.

The article, at this writing, is not on the paper’s website. The paragraph that caught my eye was this:

“Councilman Don Gerend said he didn’t think voters should worry about the prospect if the YMCA backing out of the agreement several years in if the facility is running a large annual deficit–the council would never sign off an agreement that left the city at risk for that.”

I disagree with this statement and appeared at the meeting to say so. (Also at this writing, the tape of the meeting has yet to be posted to the city’s website. My comments are within the first 15 minutes of the meeting when it is posted.)

There is no doubt in my mind that if the Community Center is running a big deficit that the YMCA would come back to the city council to renegotiate the contract. Nor is there any doubt the if the Community Center becomes a black hole the Y wouldn’t seek to walk away. A contract is only as good as the next crisis and then it’s a starting point to renegotiate.

In an unusual move, several members of the council broke from practice and commented on my comments. Mayor Tom Odell said the Y has every motivation to make the deal work: a $5m capital investment and a $1m investment in staff and support time. I agree. But what if the deal doesn’t work? Fiduciary duty demands you change the deal or take the loss and get out.

With respect (and I meant it), I said Gerend’s remarks were naive and blithely dismissive of voters. Council Member Nancy Whitten said it was her understanding the contract would have a mutually-agreed termination clause. If Whitten is right (and I suspect any contract would include such a clause) Gerend’s statement is also misleading.

Councilman John Curley remarked that if the Y can’t make a go of it as a 501 (c) 3 and with taxpayer dollar support, then no private enterprise could do so.

If the Y walks, I said the city will have 100% responsibility for the Community Center.

Citizens have a right to know the risks of this deal since they are being asked to vote on it.

I have yet to decide how I will vote in the silly advisory vote, but I do know that the city isn’t forthcoming to the citizens with all the facts, details and risks so that voters can make an informed choice on the Nov. 6 ballot. By law the city can’t promote the vote but I believe it can sit down with the paper and answer a series of detailed questions posed by the reporter. I suggested the city do so.

Previous posts I’ve written on this topic may be found:

Citizens for Sammamish Community Forum

Why the Advisory Vote is a Bad Idea, Part 2

Why the Advisory Vote is a Bad Idea, part 1

Another risk factor: The Y’s representative told the Council on July 16 she did not know when the operation will break even. Any business plan should have this projection. The inability to answer this question suggests there is no business plan.

Frankly, if I were on the Y board and my staff came to me asking to spend $5m but didn’t have a business plan to say when the project would break even, I’d fire somebody. (Like Mitt Romney, I like having this option.) If I were on the city council and staff came to me seeking $25m and there wasn’t a business plan for this project, I’d throw them out of the room. (Only the city manager can hire and fire in the city manager form of government.)

I don’t have any philosophical issues with public-private partnerships under certain circumstances and if the deal is structured properly. It’s a way to stretch dollars and turning government functions over to private enterprise to operate more efficiently is a well-known principal advocated by both political parties (but mostly Republicans, which thereby perplexes me with our local critics who are Republicans opposing on principal this public-private partnership).

But up to this point, this deal seems to be poorly thought out and rushed to put it to an advisory vote, subjecting the citizens to voting on something on which they are largely without facts.

I’m one of the 47%–but I pay taxes at a higher rate than Mitt Romney

Update, Sept. 24: This article analyses Romney’s 2011 tax return and concludes that but for the sleight-of-hand, his tax rate would have been between 12% and 10%.

Original Post:

By now, most are probably well aware of Mitt Romney’s astounding statement about the 47% of the voters who support Barack Obama for reelection.

Here’s his quote:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.All right — there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing.”

Having long ago concluded that Romney is a duplicitous, say-anything-to-win politician (hardly unique, by the way) who doesn’t appear to have any core values except to shifting positions in order to win, yes, I will be voting for Obama, no matter what.

I have news for the governor: My wife and I:

  • Are not dependent upon the government. I have my own business.
  • Don’t believe we are victims.
  • Don’t believe the government has a responsibility to care for us–yet. But when it comes time to collect Social Security, Medicare and maybe Medicaid–for which we’ve paid taxes our whole working lives–you bet, we expect to be able to tap these funds.
  • We’re fortunate that we have our own house and can buy our own food.
  • We’ve been paying for our own health care, an individual policy that has gone up generally 20%-30% per year (expletive to you, Regence Blue Shield) when the CPI index has consistently been below 5%.
  • And, oh, by the way governor: We also pay taxes, at a tax rate higher than you paid in 2010. I bet our tax rate would be higher for the last 10 years–if you’d release your tax returns.

My 92-year old mother doesn’t pay income taxes, but according to you she is a freeloading moocher. Until March, she still lived in and paid for her own apartment. She now lives in a 24-hour healthcare facility, paying for her own room and board from her life-long savings and her  Social Security earned from a lifetime of working. When the savings is gone, Medicaid will kick in–provided you aren’t elected and gut this program. She paid taxes that went toward Medicaid. Soon it will be time to benefit from it.

My 86-year old mother-in-law also doesn’t pay income taxes, so according to you she, too, is a freeloader. She has her own home, living off Social Security and her savings. Both use Medicare. Both have supplemental health insurance. Both get supplemental financial support from their children. But according to you, governor, they are dregs of society.

There was one Tweet that neatly sums you up, governor: You just tied 47% of us to the roof of your car.