Budget Deficit

Filed under: PORTSMOUTH,Uncategorized — tkm July 21, 2010 @ 10:0 am

The City of Portsmouth’s budget deficit is the result of a majority of incompetent elected officials on City Council not taking appropriate actions to control spending. City Council is responsible to the taxpayers for the efficient management of their monies and providing the needed services. The current majority of Council is inept and lacks the ability to make informed decisions and planning. The end result for bailing out the City of Portsmouth may be included in the following example……..

The New York Times

Calif. city fires all staff, outsources everything
‘Our residents have been somewhat pleased’
by DAVID STREITFELD

MAYWOOD, Calif. — Not once, not twice, but three times in the last two weeks, Andrew Quezada says, he was stopped and questioned by the authorities here.

Mr. Quezada, a high school student who does volunteer work for the city, pronounced himself delighted.

“I’m walking along at night carrying an overstuffed bag,” he said, describing two of the incidents. “I look suspicious. This shows the sheriff’s department is doing its job.”

Chalk up another Maywood resident who approves of this city’s unusual experience in municipal governing. City officials last month fired all of Maywood’s employees and outsourced their jobs.

While many communities are fearfully contemplating extensive cuts, Maywood says it is the first city in the nation in the current downturn to take an ax to everyone.

The school crossing guards were let go. Parking enforcement was contracted out, City Hall workers dismissed, street maintenance workers made redundant. The public safety duties of the Police Department were handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

At first, people in this poor, long-troubled and heavily Hispanic city southeast of Los Angeles braced for anarchy.

Senior citizens were afraid they would be assaulted as they walked down the street. Parents worried the parks would be shut and their children would have nowhere to safely play. Landlords said their tenants had begun suggesting that without city-run services they would no longer feel obliged to pay rent.

The apocalypse never arrived. In fact, it seems this city was so bad at being a city that outsourcing — so far, at least — is being viewed as an act of municipal genius.

“We don’t want to be the model for other cities to lay off their employees,” said Magdalena Prado, a spokeswoman for the city who works on contract. “But our residents have been somewhat pleased.”

That includes Mayor Ana Rosa Rizo, who was gratified to see her husband get a parking ticket on July 1, hours after the Police Department had been disbanded. The ticket was issued by enforcement clerks for the neighboring city of Bell, which is being paid about $50,000 a month by Maywood to perform various services.

Acrimony
The reaction is all the more remarkable because this is not a feel-good city. City Council hearings run hot, council members face repeated recall efforts and city officials fight in public. “You single-handedly destroyed the city,” the city treasurer told the City Council at its most recent meeting.

Four years ago, in what was probably the high-water mark of acrimony in Maywood, a deputy city clerk was arrested and accused of soliciting a hit man to kill a city councilman. The deputy clerk, Hector Duarte, was concerned that his salary might be reduced or his job eliminated during a previous round of bad fiscal times; he was sentenced to a year in jail and six months of anger management counseling.

Despite Maywood’s financial difficulties, the opening ceremonies for its Little League program were still held on Saturday.

This time, the councilman, Felipe Aguirre, has received no threats and has seen remarkably little anger. “This is a very bad economy,” said Mr. Aguirre, who like the mayor and fellow council members receives a stipend from the city of $347 every two weeks. Even if city employees lose their benefits, he said, “very good workers are still going to hang around.”

Jose B. Garcia, an assistant city planner, will now be working on contract. “I still have a job,” he said. “In that sense, I can’t complain too much.”

Maywood, which covers slightly more than one square mile, is one of the most densely populated cities in the country. The official population of 30,000 is believed to considerably understate the actual total of about 50,000.

It has some of the ills that plague other cities. Property taxes, a primary source of revenue, have declined to $900,000 from $1.2 million in 2007. Sales taxes have also dropped. But Maywood’s biggest problem by far has been its police department.

A report by the state attorney general last year concluded the culture of the department “is one permeated with sexual innuendo, harassment, vulgarity, discourtesy to members of the public as well as among officers, and a lack of cultural, racial and ethnic sensitivity and respect.”

‘Things were starting to look ugly’

There are $19 million in claims pending against the police, which made it effectively impossible for the city to get insurance for any of its employees. If Maywood did not dismiss the municipal work force, officials said, bankruptcy would have been the only option. The total number of laid-off employees, including those in the Police Department, was about 60, city officials said. “Just like the driver who has three and then four and then five accidents, things were starting to look ugly,” said Angela Spaccia, the acting city manager who is on loan from the city of Bell.

The budget for the Police Department last year was nearly $8 million, more than half of Maywood’s revenues. The contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will cost about half of that. Insurance premiums for the city have fallen to $200,000 from $1 million.

The deputies have already engendered good will, Councilman Aguirre said, by cracking down on a local hotel that was a haven for prostitution.

And others said they have seen an increased police presence in the last few weeks. “The deputies are there right away,” said Maria Mendez, who has lived in Maywood for most of her 73 years. “Before you used to wait and wait for the police.”

One reason for the general enthusiasm might lie in the fact that many of the nonpolice workers have been rehired on contract, so in some cases the faces encountered by the public remain the same. In other words, no one has noticed much going wrong because there was not much to notice in the first place.

The five crossing guards, for instance, are doing the same work but are paid by a security company.

And it is possible the bad news is just slow in arriving. Maywood has dabbled in contracting before, and it has run awry in some instances. Skeptics cited the example of two handball courts in a Maywood park. City officials said it cost an outsized sum — hundreds of thousands of dollars — for a contractor to build three concrete walls.

A few people, extrapolating from personal experience, are convinced that the city is still on a downward path.

Jerald Bennett was on his way to the $2 seniors’ lunch at the bustling Maywood recreational center when another car made an illegal turn and almost rammed him. “It seems like that sort of thing is happening more and more,” he said. “They’re not patrolling the streets.”

For others, however, the celebration here is practically palpable. Freed from its employees, Maywood has nowhere to go but up, they say.

“Remember the Soviet Union?” said Hector Alvarado, who heads a civic advocacy group. “They had a lot of bureaucracy, and they lost. Maywood was like that. Now people know if they don’t work, they will be laid off. Much better this way.”

This story, ” A City Outsources Everything. Sky Doesn’t Fall,” originally appeared in The New York Times.  Copyright © 2010 The New York Times

Small Calif. city plans to disband all services

MAYWOOD, Calif. — The small city of Maywood south of downtown Los Angeles plans to lay off almost all its employees, disband its police department and contract municipal operations to a neighboring city.

Facing a budget deficit of at least $450,000 and unable to get insurance because of a history of lawsuits, many involving the police department, the Maywood City Council said Monday night it had no choice but to adopt the plan.

The 1.2-square-mile city will hire the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department for law enforcement services, and the neighboring city of Bell will handle other city services such as finance, records management and parks and recreation.

Experts told the Los Angeles Times the decision appeared to be unprecedented among California cities.

Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Levee Certification

Filed under: John Haas,Kevin Johnson,Nicholas Basham,PORTSMOUTH,Uncategorized — tkm June 18, 2010 @ 10:0 am

I’m taking a break from involvement in city affairs while we are remodeling our home but I felt the issue of Levee Certification, dealt with in the letters and records posted below, was too important to let slip by.  These records are public information and what they remind us is that John Haas and Nicholas Basham are doing the dirty work for the greedy multi-millionaire lawyers and real estate developers who control Portsmouth economically and politically.  If I needed a lawyer I would never hire anyone as incompetent as 5th Ward Councilperson John Haas.  And if I had a student in any school where Nicholas Basham was a teacher I would transfer them to another school, I would want my children to be taught by teachers with better habits, principles, and judgment than Basham’s.  Haas and Basham are receiving no more scrutiny from the lying Portsmouth Daily Times than Kalb and Mearan did. That’s my opinion, anyway.

I will have two attachments that will have information concerning the Levee Certification –checking back later.
———————————————————————

This morning’s Portsmouth Daily Times article titled “Haas Questions Levee Certification Firm” (see http://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/view/full_story/7953113/article-Haas-Questions-Levee-Certification-Firm?instance=home_news_lead) may have led you to believe that I discounted the possibility of obtaining a lower cost for our project to certify our flood protection system in accordance with new FEMA criteria; new criteria developed following the failure of flood protection systems in New Orleans related to Hurricane Katrina.

Quite the contrary. Though I am indeed concerned about utilizing local contractors and employees, please note my response (below) to Councilman Haas’ email that was referenced in the Daily Times article. Though my response was shared with the press within half an hour of Mr. Haas’ email, my issues were not referenced in the Daily Times article.

A bit of background. As was referenced by the Mayor at Monday’s Council meeting, three bids were obtained for this Levee certification project; one of which came in at over $1 million. Mr. Jeff Peck, P.E. met with Howerton Engineering and Environmental Engineering Services (EES) to negotiate a combined contract which lowered the low bid from approximately $750,000 to $630,000 for Phase I testing, modeling and analyses. For those of you who have the time and inclination, attached are two documents relating to FEMA criteria. The three bids are public documents, by the way; and all citizens have the right to review them.

What occurred at Monday night’s meeting, as regards the FEMA certification contract, was yet another ambush. The ONLY documentation provided by Councilman Basham and New Boston City Administrator Steve Hamilton was a listing of contractors (four pages long). Mr. Haas, in his email, asks “Was Mr. Peck completely unaware of the list of companies submitted at last night’s counsel meeting?” This is a specious question. No government is required to issue bids to some forty engineering firms around the country.

It was “suggested” that Mr. Hamilton had received a lower bid from AMEC of Nashville, TN. No documentation of any kind was presented to support this suggestion. The inference made by Mr. Basham was that the Mayor and Jeff Peck, P.E., did not do their job in establishing and following a proper bid process; an inference not supported by the facts.

In addition, Mr. Basham questioned the utilization of sub-contractors. The use of sub-contractors is an industry standard as most engineering firms, especially those local to us, specialize in various aspects of engineering. The same is true for building schools, automobiles, major military items (space shuttles, jets, ships) or other major projects; at the local, state and federal level. To combine various engineering firms with specific specialties as sub-contractors reporting to a primary contractor benefits the project and the entity paying the bills.

But, my biggest concern is that two members of Council would publicly question the levee certification firm and process without having done their homework. What kind of bid HAS New Boston obtained? Did their bid process follow our own criteria (bid specifications, minimum of three bids, etc.)? Have these members of Council reviewed and compared the bids received by the City as well as those received by New Boston?

Below you will find Councilman Haas’ original email, as referenced by the Daily Times article. I invited you to ascertain whether you might make an informed decision concerning this issue based upon the information he has presented or by that provided in the Daily Times article.

As stated in my email (in response to Mr. Haas) below, “I look forward to reviewing the Village of New Boston’s documentation at our next Council meeting; which I am sure you (Mr. Haas), Mr. Basham and Mr. Hamilton will provide.”

Respectfully,

Kevin

Kevin W. Johnson, Member
Portsmouth City Council – First Ward
1020 24th Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662-2822
740-876-8558 (cell 250-4710)

—– Original Message —–
From: Kevin W. Johnson
To: John Haas
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 6:00 PM
Subject: Re: FEMA requirements

I thank you, John, for your thoughts concerning FEMA bid and cost issues.

I shall assume that you and Councilman Basham have:

1) reviewed the FEMA documenation provided by the Mayor (as attached),

2) reviewed the three (3) bids received by the City to meet FEMA project requirements (as was offered Council by the Mayor last night),

3) reviewed the documentation and requirements statement developed by the Village of New Boston and the bid documentation received from AMEC of Nashville, TN, as was obviously provided to you by Mr. Steve Hamilton, New Boston Village Administrator, and

4) compared the City’s documentation with that of New Boston to establish that what New Boston has been offered is comparable to the requirements in the City’s bid package.

Assuming, again, that you have done so, and the Village of New Boston truly has a better cost solution in hand, then we should indeed look again at this issue.

I look forward to reviewing the Village of New Boston’s documentation at our next Council meeting; which I am sure you, Mr. Basham and Mr. Hamilton will provide.

Respectfully,

Kevin

Kevin W. Johnson
1020 24th Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662-2822
740-876-8558 (cell 250-4710)

—– Original Message —–
From: John Haas
To: Media and City Officials
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 5:33 PM
Subject: RE: FEMA requirements

Madam Mayor and the prestigious list of honorable council members, prospective and current contractors and press:

One would think the requirements for New Boston would be the same as Portsmouth since it is the same system. Was Mr. Peck completely unaware of the list of companies submitted at last night’s counsel meeting? Have you had any conversations since the May 24 council meeting with Mr. Hamilton in New Boston about who they are looking at for the project and why they are apparently going a different direction?

Late last week, I heard that New Boston found a firm that was very experienced in performing the FEMA studies and that they were much cheaper than any number bandied about by the current or prior administration. Nick Basham deserves our thanks for doing the follow up and bringing that firm and the list of several others to your attention prior to the authorization of expenditures to Howerton. It would could have been very embarrassing to all of us if we proceeded to overpay a firm with admittedly no experience on this FEMA study only to have it pointed out later we could have hired an experienced firm for much less.

Perhaps after investigating the firm New Boston hired or is considering hiring, they will not turn out to be the lowest or best bid. At that point, I will feel we complied with our due of due diligence expected of us who serve in public office. I believe that when we are spending taxpayer’s money we need to investigate all options and not call members of council “asinine” for asking questions.

John R. Haas
From: Jane Murray [mailto:mayormurray@portsmouthoh.org]
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 2:50 PM
To: City Officials
Subject: FEMA requirements

Council has been given the attached previously. But, in case you need it again, these are the requirements for levee certification and form the basis of the scope of work for the contract with Howerton Engineering.

Mayor Jane Murray
City of Portsmouth, OH
728 Second Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662
740-354-8807
mayormurray@portsmouthoh.org

________________________________________________________
From: “Kevin W.W. Johnson”
Date: June 16, 2010 8:45:08 AM EDT
To:
Subject: June 14 Council Meeting

Once again I feel it necessary to communicate additional information concerning actions by our City Council.

Monday’s meeting was a financial ambush on the Mayor, City Department heads and employees. What you read in this morning’s Portsmouth Daily Times told but part of the story.

For context, understand that the issue is our CIP (Capital Improvements Project) budget. Five weeks ago it was introduced at the Mayor’s Conference Agenda meeting and three weeks ago it was discussed at length by Council with the Mayor and Department heads. Numerous cuts were made three weeks ago, with participation and agreement by the Mayor and Department heads.

Our meeting this past Monday was for the CIP’s second reading. Imagine everyone’s surprise when, first, Mr. Haas made sweeping deletions to the first portion of the CIP (verbally, not in writing). Ostensibly, this move was to bring our budget in line with income. However, CIP funds may NOT be utilized in the General Fund (salaries, etc.) so cutting the CIP budget, for items such as road repair and equipment for our employees to accomplish their jobs does NOT impact our $1.2 million deficit. (See the Times article for cost details).

Then Mr. Basham introduced even more cuts (and some interesting additions) to the second portion of the CIP… making cuts that would have devastated Main Street Portsmouth and downtown redevelopment, eliminated our participation in (and designation by) Tree City USA and much, much more. At least, however, Mr. Basham’s proposals were in writing, so that Council could review them. (Again, see the Times article for cost details.)

Understand that there is a process in management that calls for communicating major changes to fellow members of Council so that we (on Council) and the PUBLIC are not caught off guard by last minute introductions of major change. Messrs. Basham and Haas had three weeks to provide Council and the public with an indication of their proposals. They chose, instead, to lead a tandem ambush on Council and the public with their sweeping “surprise” changes. Fortunately, certain of the City’s Department heads and community leaders were in attendance to counter and provide real facts and information to members of Council.

I was, to put it mildly, disgusted; and voiced this opinion loud and clear. You will not note this in press reports.

Finally – Mr. Basham indicated he had contacted various employees of the City for the information detailed in his cuts (and additions): bypassing the Mayor and all Department heads (such interference is forbidden by City Charter, by the way), leading Mr. Bill Beaumont to publicly chastise Mr. Basham for going behind his back and claiming that employees were afraid to voice their concerns to Department heads. Again, no mention of this in press reports.

I’ll be writing more after our next Council meeting. It is important to me that you be made aware of what is going on in the background and have historical context to what is now going on.

Sincerely,

Kevin

Kevin W. Johnson, Member
Portsmouth City Council – First Ward
1020 24th Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662-2822
740-876-8558 (cell 250-4710)

Tracy Park

Filed under: PORTSMOUTH — tkm September 16, 2009 @ 20:0 pm

Let me begin by saying, neither Bob nor I have rallied behind one group or another as it pertains to the Tracy Park playground construction project. What we did was listen to several citizens who have specific safety concerns associated with the playground project [which some believe is a hazard for our children].

Bob and I were contacted on Saturday evening, September 12th, and asked to meet at Tracy Park (a City owned park) to discuss the impending playground being built by the Portsmouth Kiwanis Club. The discussion identified several potential safety issues associated with the location of the playground. I have also asked myself why these concerns were just now being brought forth when this project had been ongoing for several months, but, even with that said I believe it is never too late to bring up Safety concerns. Bob and I both work in an industry that requires and encourages a Safety Conscious Work Environment. This mindset has been instilled in both Bob and I through our many years of working in an industry that puts safety first. If it were a common practice for industries, manufacturers and construction projects to forgo safety after the design and build phases could you imagine how many injuries and death accidents would occur? What if manufacturers of children’s toys, furniture, clothing or safety equipment felt after the design, manufacture and sell phases were complete no further evaluations or input was needed or received. I would have a serious problem with any company or manufacturer who put my child in danger. Let me ask this, has anyone not returned a recalled safety item and then permitted their child to continue to use the defective merchandise. I would hope not!

In the discussions held on Sunday the damage to the trees was discussed. I also have uncertainties about the damage to trees in Tracy Park and the consequences associated. My issue to the damage of a tree(s) is safety related. If there is any increase in the chance a child could be injured or killed from a falling branch I have concerns. Any safety concerns and issues not assessed prior to moving forward with this project or any project that could negatively impact the wellbeing of our children and our community is not acceptable.
During the fact finding meeting on Sunday with the concerned citizens, a woman [named Becky] representing the Kiwanis approached us by asking if we were the ones who were trying to shutdown the playground project, and if so we were the group that was not concerned about the children. My answer to her was, “You are the one who is uncaring and self-absorbed. You strut around full of yourself prior to ensuring and encouraging all questions concerning safety are answered to the satisfaction guaranteeing the protection and security of the children. I asked “Becky” why the Kiwanians had not considered a residential area like Mound Park instead of a high traffic business area like Tracy Park. She responded by saying, “Do you think I would take my grandchildren to Mound Park with all the stuff that is going on there?” That answer concerns me. “Do we just ignore the problems of our community or do we stand up for our community and make it a better place to live, work and raise a family?” I guess The Portsmouth Kiwanis Club believes we should just close our eyes to the real problems of the community and just maybe they will go away or turn an area into a blighted area for Neal Hatcher to acquire for nothing.

Several Individuals are lashing out at those who are questioning safety aspects of the playground. They are calling it a political ploy at a price of a child’s life and welfare. One of those individuals openly condoning this behavior is Al Oliver, who is being used by the Kiwanians as a political pawn.

Do the Kiwanians ignore the safety of our children to meet a deadline? Do the Kiwanians use children as a political ploy through the biased media of WSAZ and WNXT to intimidate and silence safety concerns? Will the Kiwanians take responsibility for any child who might be injured or killed using their potentially unsafe project?

Instead of egocentric groups in our community looking only for that highly publicized pat on the back, they should be concentrating on the welfare and safety of the community and the children.

Remember, it is never too late to ensure safety.

2009 Budget Projections for the City of Portsmouth – Not Good

Filed under: Trent Williams,Uncategorized — tkm August 7, 2009 @ 14:0 pm

IMGA0426-1
Pres. David Malone, 2nd Ward Council; VP Gerald Albrecht, 4th Ward Council; Mike Merean, 1st Ward Council; John Haas, 5th Ward Council; Jim Kalb, Mayor; Trent Williams, City Auditor.
These 6 puppets stay true to their unelected leaders and regurgitate whatever they are told to say, even if it means the demise of the City.

On July 30th 2009, Auditor Trent Williams calculated a Projected General Fund Revenue Summary for the current 2009 Fiscal Year. The Projected Year-End Revenues were obtained by using the Actual YTD figures from June 30th, 2009 and the Projected Year-End Revenues. These calculations show the City is approximately $1.1 million dollars short of meeting their year-to-end budget, and those figures only emphasize the highlighted line-items.  My feeling about the report is Trent was being very conservative in his calculations after reviewing the rest of the line-items. Trent used conservative numbers in predicting the Projected 2009 numbers on some line-items. Other line-items also show a shortfall for the City: several of the line items show Actual YTD 09 collections missing their mark by more than 50%.  By December these anemic financial chickens will come home to roost.

Once Council passes an Ordinance to accept the General Fund Budget the Budget is no longer the Mayor’s Budget but Council’s Budget.

Four (4) Council members (1st Ward Mike Mearan, 2nd Ward David Malone, 4th Ward Gerald Albrecht, and 5th Ward John Haas) voted in favor of Mayor Kalb’s proposed 2009 General Fund Revenue Budget in January, even though the City Auditor said he did not feel the figures presented to Council were achievable. Trent, even though he had reservations about the Budget, stood behind and even supported the pressure being placed on Council to pass the Budget by the Mayor and then ultimately joined forces with the 4 Council members whose vote it was to pass the 2009 General Fund Revenue Budget this past January.

The Auditor’s report shows the City could experience close to a $2 million deficit by the time December 31, 2009 gets here.

CLICK:  2009 General Fund Revenue Summary – 2009 Budgeted, Actual YTD June 30, 2009 and Projected Year-End Revenues

7-27-09 City Council Meeting

Filed under: Council Highlights — tkm July 29, 2009 @ 1:0 am

CLICK: 7-27-09 Mearan during his 1st Ward Report

“I can just speak for Mike Mearan that no one tells Mike Mearan how to vote or what to say, I speak my piece.”

“I’m not always on the right side. I can accept that and go on.”

Well Mike, if you can accept that the voters have voted three (3) times and all three (3) times, count them, all three (3) times have said NO – to the Marting Building then why are you trying to obligate the City to further taxes when they have said NO!!!!!!!

And Mike, since no one tells Mike Mearan “how to vote or what to say” I guess you are personally responsible for sponsoring the additional monetary burden on the City, which will be discussed at the next Council Meeting, and I’m sure there will be no input allowed by the citizens of Portsmouth.

Listen and watch the video of Williams, City Auditor explaining that the City is short (money) in the General Fund and several of the other Enterprise Funds, and wondering how we will make the 2nd half of the year.

CLICK: 7-27-09 Vidoe Auditor Williams

Reporting on the budget figures for the first half of the year, City Auditor Trent Williams said, “So far [the numbers are] not looking really good. The General Fund [is] not performing as well as we had hoped.”

“We still have the 2nd half of the year to go, but I will finish finalizing the numbers in the report and give that to the Mayor so that he can, bring some, oh possible, suggestions or ideas making it through the rest of the year.”

WHAT DOES AUDITOR WILLIAMS SAY ABOUT PORTSMOUTH’S FINANCIAL SITUATION? “NOT LOOKING REALLY GOOD.”

The “2009” Budget was passed by 4 Council members – 1st Ward Mike Mearan, 2nd Ward Mike Malone, 4th Ward Gerald Albrecht and 5th Ward John Haas.  In my opinion these four (4) council members did not do their homework prior to passing a budget that was damned from the start.

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