A couple of questions come immediately to mind: Why do we continue to be subjected to these tax increases and yet our government becomes less productive? Why do we continue to pay more and get less? And, why do we keep paying more and our City gets worse? The approach to answering these questions appears to be throwing money at problems, but the problem is not the money; it’s the people we’ve place in charge to manage that money.
I’ve said it many times over. The City of Mount Vernon is a corporation, and it needs to be operated as such. In order for a corporation to be successful, you must select the right people, those who know how to run a business. Each taxpayer is a shareholder in that corporation. What people often misunderstand is that the shareholders OWN the corporation. They are in charge ultimately. Many have made a large investment by purchasing homes and property in the City. If the City succeeds, our investment gains value. But, if it does poorly, our investment (like our home values) can disappear.
This is why it is so vitally important to have the right CEO and Board of Directors in place if we ever plan to rise. The budget is the single most important instrument we have when is comes to running a city/corporation. It tells us what we have to spend to accomplish our targeted objectives without going over. It tells us what the corporation’s leadership considers a priority. And, it is a test to see if that leadership can live within their means and not only stay within the budget but also strive to be under budget. Why? Because it’s not their money. It’s our money!
Every time a corporation has to go to the market to get new money (i.e., raise taxes), it is an admission that leadership has failed. They are obligated to account to the owners of the company – the shareholders/taxpayers – and explain why they cannot live within their means and why they need more of our money to accomplish less. If Mount Vernon’s leadership ran a company like the way they run our government that company would be out of business decades ago.
The only reason a government can run so incompetently and yet still be in “business” is because everything they do is about convincing the taxpayers that higher taxes every year are the norm. Well, they’re not! They should be the exception!
The most obvious measure of a city’s success is its school system. It gets the vast majority of the money to produce results – graduating students. We’ll discuss Mount Vernon’s school district in another part of this series, however, you can see what the conclusion is going to be: catastrophic failure. Every year, your leadership asks for more money to educate students and every year they fail to do it – in numbers that are crippling our community.
City services are also a good measure. They’re harder to notice, but there are ways you can tell. Look at the litter on the street. Look for patrol cars. Look at the burned-out houses, potholes and run-down businesses. Look at the broken windows and abandoned cars. All of these are indications that city services – fire, police, building inspection, traffic, etc. – are failing. Are they doing more with less, as they should? No! They’re doing less with more! It’s got to stop.
When we buy into that corporation, we do so on the understanding that our leadership understands whose money they are tasked with using. We do so expecting our investment in that corporation to increase in value and even pay a dividend by lowering our taxes every chance they can. What we don’t expect and cannot continue to tolerate is a constant reduction in value, to the point where our investment is entirely worthless.
Transparent leadership, Fiscal discipline, Competent management, Achievable goals and Reasonable priorities are what good corporations live by.
Ask yourself these questions. Are you seeing any of this in Mount Vernon’s government? Or, are you just getting more excuses and a higher tax bill?
In Part 2, we’ll discuss why the 2021 budget doesn’t work, why its assumptions are just bad science fiction and how our City is heading towards a rough landing.
When Apollo 13 called back to Houston, saying, “we have a problem…” it was an admission that if something didn’t change, they were going to have a disaster on their hands. Well, Mount Vernon, “We Have A PROBLEM”.