Thursday, August 11, 2016

Priester: City gives lies & excuses

Jackson Ward 2 City Councilman Melvin Priester, Jr. provided his assessment of the city's finances in this post on his public Facebook page Tuesday:

So here's where we are financially.

We originally were scheduled to start having budget hearings tomorrow (Wednesday). Thursday evening of last week, the administration asked if we could push that back to the 15th (Monday) because some critical numbers were still in flux to the tune of millions of dollars. We agreed to that request. Hopefully the mayor will now have a draft budget by close of business tomorrow.

For tonight's meeting, the delay in getting a proposed fy17 budget is going to make things stressful. The ham handed dealing with the financial transparency software is also going to make things less than pleasant.

For example, the mayor is bringing back the contract with the consultants for the consent decree at the same time he's requesting that we downgrade expected income in the water sewer department by 8.5 million dollars. He insisted at the work session yesterday that we already have set aside 2.5 million worth of water sewer money to pay for this consultant. But, if we know at this time that our revenue projections were off so much, how are we supposed to know if 2.5 million is still an amount we can afford. My take on the numbers is that it's not an amount we actually can afford. Looking back through past consent decree spending on consultants also makes me think the numbers with the company being pushed are not in fact a saving despite what was said at work session.

In any event, this whole debacle is why I am so furious about the fact that open gov, the financial transparency tool, has not been implemented. The excuse about incompatibility is ridiculous. Open gov has flat out offered to send technical specialists out to deal with our system and make it talk to their technology. This is what they do. Jackson is not the only city using outdated programs. But it got tossed aside without even a "hey guys, we know we bought this but we are going to ignore dealing with it. Sorry."

This open gov situation is a repeat of the Raftelis situation. Raftelis was the consulting group Keisha Powell insisted we hire to look into the water sewer financial situation. We spent $750,000 for them to give advice on how to fix the water sewer financials two years ago. The bulk of their advice never got implemented and the financial picture in that area remains clouded.

That's why we pushed to invest in open gov a year ago. Now it's budget time again and we continue to be hamstrung.

Consequently, even if we are trying to cooperate (by for example, not flipping tables when asked to push back budget hearings), there's not a lot of trust in city hall right now. There is no reason to trust numbers coming out of the mayor's office because they flat out lied and were hugely wrong about numbers last year such as whether we were meeting the reserve. Maybe if after those events they had seriously attempted to implement open gov. there would be more faith. But it was just more excuses.

This all comes to a head tonight as it's hard to trust that we have enough money to hire a 2.5 million consent decree consultant when the budget is late and during the same meeting you're saying we need to cut revenue projections in that area by 8.5 million. It's hard to trust that we have the money to hire this consultant when in the same meeting we are being told also that we need to finalize a water sewer debt refinancing before the end of September to avoid major financial problems.

Nothing is adding up right now.

On a related note, I'm not voting in favor of authorizing litigation against Siemens as Councilman Stokes requests. I'm not a fan of this contract or the results we're getting, but strategically, moving to a litigation footing right now would hurt the citizens more than it would help at this point.

There has been a lot of compromise between the public works department and Siemens recently that is getting us over the hump to just getting a system that works. This proposal from Councilman Stokes would set things back rather than move things forward. I'd like to say more but if this does ultimately go to litigation I don't want anything I say to be detrimental to Jackson's suit or any cross claims against the city brought by Siemens. I will be doing a lot of tongue biting and frustrated sighing though tonight.

This is the second meeting in a row where Councilman Stokes is proposing to blow up a major contract (last time was the Jatran Contract). Feels great to rattle sabers but rattling sabers in my experience only shuts down communications and causes things to freeze up even worse than before.


Anonymous said...

Yarber should be flush by now

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the city of Jackson spends a lot of money on consultants. The consultants do not do their job and it cost the city more money to try to get things right. Somehow they never get it right but will hire more consultants anyway.
It is time for the city to forget about all of this minority only crap. Hire people who can get the job done. If people on the city payroll were hired only for who they are instead of their job experience and knowledge, fire them.

As long as the people in Jackson insist on electing people who do not have any idea how to conduct business and are not even half way honest they will continue to waste money. Tax paying people and business has mostly moved out of the city. Look for more to go to the out skirts of Jackson.

Anonymous said...

Who would have thought that someone who couldn't pay their mortgage could manage a budget?

Anonymous said...

Priester is the only one with a lick of sense up there.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I sold my house and got out of that cesspool! Good luck folks.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't he the Mayor? Is he too 'whitey' to win?

Anonymous said...

Priester 'whitey'?

No, his problem is that he is too connected to Bennie. That separates him from some of the black community, and most of the white community when they learn of his (and family) connection.

Anonymous said...

The feedback I keep getting is that Priester's biggest millstone is his family. Frankly, I believe he is capable of acting autonomously. He has a good grasp of what the City has and what the City needs. I do not find him "going along to get along" on most topics. Am reaching the point where his running for Mayor may be the best thing that can happen to Jackson.

Disagree with one of the above on Priester's being the only one with any brains. Foote seems smart enough and to ask the right questions and to study well before meetings. Hendricks would be much better if he didn't try to comply with the democratic party's line before voting what is best for Jackson.

Have no idea why the City wants to issue contracts to unfamiliar companies. Does anyone out there know?

Anonymous said...

@4:28. Not sure that it is 'the city' that wants to issue these contracts. Seems to me that it is 'the Mayor' - and that answer is simple. $$$s

We Are Gathered Here Today... said...

"2.5 million for a consultant"....did I read that correctly? If that's what I read, you can stop reading right there!

Anonymous said...

6:40, but the consultant is worth every cent. Who is the consultant related to, which elected official in Jackson?

Anonymous said...

"Priester is the only one with a lick of sense up there.".... that's a scary statement cuz he ain't no genius by a long shot.

Anonymous said...

6:53, don't believe this company is related to anyone in the city. They are multi-national and not what we need.

Tuck In That Shirttail, Bennie said...

"No, his problem is that he is too connected to Bennie. That separates him from some of the black community..."

Do you really believe there are more than fifteen blacks who are not worshiping Bennie?

Anonymous said...

Agree with 5:00 AM, When did Bennie become a liability in the "black community"? Or is Bennie just not in sync with the Lumumba crowd?

Anonymous said...

The best thing for the city of Jackson to do is immediately reject anyone for any public office that has ever held one in Jackson. That should be followed immediately by rejecting any person who wants to be a politician in Jackson.
The mayor, city council and all politicians should be a name drawn out of a hat. Couldn't do any worse than the clowns we have now. Maybe it would take them a while before they learned all of the secrets on how to steal from the people.

Anonymous said...

The Jackson horror show continues. Every time you open a door in City Hall there's something scary behind it. Maybe it's time to call in Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine. I also can't wait to read about the Feds' forthcoming paddy wagon parties...

Dave's not here said...

Kenny Stokes fo mayor

Anonymous said...

@5:00 & 9:39 - evidently y'all are members of the 'all blacks think and act alike' group. Learn something about politics in the city/state before you stick your nose into the conversation and show your ignorance.

While the black 'vote' in Jackson will vote for Bennie over a Repub, that does not mean at all that they are all in his corner. There are four or five different 'black factions' in the county, and Bennie works against at least three of them in local/area elections.

The Priesters (mom and dad) are in the Bennie organization neck deep. But when it comes to local politics, that helps in some parts of the city and is detrimental in others. And in the 'white' community who would like to support Jr. because he seems to be at least trying and reasonable, the fact of putting Bennie in control of the City chases them away.

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