Our mayor took umbrage about one candidate’s campaign literature asserting that the city commission over budgeted by some 2 million, so keeping tax rates high. The candidate asked something like “Where is the money going?” This sounded like a question, but the mayor grumbled on at the commission meeting that the question suggested that our city’s government did something dishonest. Paraphrasing the mayor, ‘If the candidate had asked, he would have found out that we on the commission had saved 1.2 million dollars (the difference between budgeted and spent) in a building fund, the money to be used for new projects or to tide us over hard times.’ In a flood of words he promised to send letters to the mailing list of voters that he thought had gotten this possibly demeaning message. I thought he was posturing for political effect.
Next day I got the proposed letter by city email that he wanted to send out to some 2300 absentee ballot voters. I hope he refrains.
There is a balancing deception from the other side of this political contest. His opponent’s literature states that he voted to lower the sewage rates by 10%. It’s a lie.
In the first place, the sewage rates that we approved relate only to Kentwood’s first ward, roughly the part west of Breton. This older part of our city, adjacent to Wyoming, receives all of its water supply and sewage disposal from our neighboring city. The Wyoming city commissioners determines how much it needs to charge Kentwood to cover their costs and tells us to pay up. We in Kentwood can mark up their charges when we send out the bills.
The record back in May, shows that Wyoming increased the water rates charged to Kentwood by 0.6%. We, in Kentwood, did not pass this slight increase on to the users of water in the 1st ward, but rather added 5.2%. This is an overall 4.6% increase above our costs and was approved by the city commission. It is nothing more than an increased tax on the citizens of the older part of the city.
On sewer side, Wyoming decreased sewage rates by 11.7%. We lowered our rates to our residents by 9.9%. This is again a gain for Kentwood of 1.8% for sewage services and a tax increase for which the then newly appointed commissioner and now candidate voted.
At the time, I and the other commissioners understood that increasing the charges on the residents of the 1st ward was justified for ongoing repairs of the pipes on that side of the city. The net charges for combined sewage and water dropped by about 3%. which sounded good and we approved the rates. My ward, the second, is billed directly by the City of Grand Rapids, and these changes in the first ward didn’t concern my constituency,
No one in Kentwood lowered the rates. The Wyoming city commission set the rates. In Kentwood, we only agreed to accept their offer and cut a bit of pork off the pig’s ass as it waddled past..
I don’t know on what kind of scale on which we can weigh the venial sins of the two politicians making exaggerated statements during a heated campaign . One seems to imply problems with our handling of money, the other frankly misleads voters with a fictional account of his non performance.
The mayor’s problem is that he chose to pour out his venom at the one candidate who made an ambiguous statement and ignored the fabrications of the other. The attack on one without balancing it with a condemnation of the evident misrepresentations of his opponent risks a charge that our mayor might use public funds or facilities to push a partisan political agenda.
And of course, I hastily wrote a brief note in reply to the mayor’s email pointing out the howler in the second candidate’s literature. I wanted to forestall the mayor’s publishing his one sided rant with its appearance of favoritism. It might cause him political problems and besmirch Kentwood’s governance. I used one of the two computers to which I recently converted. It whizzes compared to the comfortable, sticky keyboards on my 6 year old machines. I pressed “return to all” and so have now offended the “Open Meeting Act” gods.
Oh Woe is me! As I write this, I’m hiding out in a cheap motel in a far off state until my misdemeanor fades into obscurity, a slip of the fingers drowned out by the multiple slips of the tongue.