“SAINT PETER DON”T YOU CALL ME CAUSE I CAN’T GO;I OWE MY SOUL TO THE COMPANY STORE”
By the time you read this, chances are very good that collectively, the taxpayers of this city will be singing the line in that old Tennessee Ernie Ford hit “another day older and deeper in debt”. And we just might all be inclined to sing the song’s other popular line which says; “Saint Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store”.
The company store being a metaphor for the Lubbock City Council and a city management staff which never seems to be able to accumulate enough debt to satisfy their bureaucratic, compulsive need to dig the debt hole deeper and deeper.
I refer of course to this week’s City Council agenda item 6.3 which states:
6.3 Bond Issuance Ordinance 1st and Only Reading – Finance: Consider an ordinance providing for the issuance of City of Lubbock, Texas, Tax and Wastewater System Surplus Revenue Certificates of Obligation, Series 2008 in an amount not to exceed $70 million; levying a tax and pledging surplus Wastewater System revenues in payment thereof; approving the official statement; approving execution of a purchase contract; and enacting other provisions relating thereto.
In simpler terms; get ready; our sewer and water rates will be going up to service the insatiable thirst this Mayor and council has for incurring debt; without voter approval.
That’s right my fellow Lubbockites; another $70 million worth of debt; and without any significant public discourse or opportunity to voice opposition. And all it will take is a first and final reading of the ordinance language; ensuring that the majority of city residents will learn of this long after the ordinance has passed.
This council, knowing that residents are not likely to approve anything they put before us is willing to go behind the false cloak of open government the Mayor wraps himself in and by a simple council majority approve $70 million more dollars worth of more debt.
Never mind that we made ourselves very clear about our distrust in city management; the majority of council members and the Mayor; when they tried to take us for a cool $300 million just a few months ago; but unlike General Obligation Funds; Certificates of Obligation do not require voter approval. Pretty slick huh?
And even if opposition comes from some council members like John Leonard and possibly Todd Klein; and by some big stretch of the imagination Jim Gilbreath; my guess is that Mayor Miller and his other gang of 4 cohorts will readily follow City Manager Lee Ann Dumbauld’s lead down the road to that big tub of red ink in the sky.
Here we are in the midst of a probable recession; never mind what the local experts say; we will be affected. Gas prices are expected to hit $4 bucks a gallon; grocery store prices are going up; the stock market is experiencing double digit losses every day; the unemployment rate is starting to creep up; and some people stand to lose their homes in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Yet by the time you read this; if you live in this city you may be the proud recipient of a shared $70 million dollars worth of debt.
Who goes into debt during a recession? Look no further than those wizards of economic disaster down at city hall for the answer.
Make no mistake about it, the debt will have to be serviced somehow. And that somehow will be on the backs of tax payers like you and me. The following line clearly states how the debt is to be serviced: “levying a tax and pledging surplus Wastewater System revenues in payment thereof”. Of course the city will promptly tell us that taxes will not go up. Then they will turn around and raise our water and sewer rates and then pat themselves on the back in public for not raising our taxes.
You say two-matow; I say tomato; what the heck is the difference? The money will still come out of taxpayer’s pockets. Talk about being disingenuous; or have I mistakenly got it mixed up with that other “d” word which means just about the same thing?
I was hoping to end this column by offering an uplifting tune which would capture the whole debt thing for us.
So to my fellow taxpayers of this city I dedicate that old Bee Gee’s tune with a slight variation; “How Deep is Your Debt”. And to those cold dark eyes staring at me from city hall; a variation of The Eagles old standard; “You Can’t Hide Them Lying Eyes”.