By Will Stone, Manzanita
The councilors and the City Manager gathered around the conference table to discuss the pressing issue of how to pay for a new City Hall building. Attending via Zoom call were several consultants hired to give valuable (and expensive) advice when needed or possible.
The leaders were a colorful group. There was Bob, the old-timer who had been on council for decades. There was Sally, the millennial who was always on her phone, barely paying attention to the discussion. There was Jim, the conspiracy theorist who believed the government was out to get him. There was Karen, the self-appointed expert on everything. Finally, there was Tom, who was always making jokes and puns, but rarely contributing much value to the discussion.
The City Manager sat quietly, taking notes and nodding along with the members, occasionally thinking about job security.
“Alright, let’s get started” said the City Manager.
The councilors were sipping coffees and nibbling stale donuts.
Tom selected a donut. “My neighbor thinks we’ll raise his taxes.” he said. “He called me a dough nut. Get it, money, dough? Hey, these donuts are stale. I thought we were getting scones.”
The City Manager said, “Yes – donuts versus scones.” On the Zoom call, a face appeared and a voice said. “This is Wanda. We surveyed the market and provided a report concluding scones were better, more expensive but better.”
Bob said, “I’m not big on change. We’ve always had donuts, but if the consultant says scones, I’m for it.”
“Alright, let’s get started” repeated the City Manager.
“Is this coffee regular or decaf? Can’t I have a double decaf latte?” said Sally.
Everyone looked at each other not knowing what to say. “Should we ask the consultants?” asked Tom.
From the Zoom line, multiple, competing voices said, “We can investigate coffee issues! “
“Alright, let’s get started” said the City Manager. “Does the council want to authorize a $4,500,000 loan to build city hall or ask the voters to approve it through a levy?”
“Does that include interest?” asked Karen.
A voice from Zoom, “Well, interest will typically more than double the overall outlay depending on the length of the loan. It can be modeled. The city can get the loan easily because it’s guaranteed by property owners’ tax payments.”
Bob inserted, “I liked the old building . The moldy bathroom was fixable for $40,000 and now we’ve spent over $500,000 on consultants for a new building. Aren’t we still paying for the land?” The Zoom call voices were silent.
“Well, you need to decide on authorizing the money with just three councilors voting yes,” said the City Manager, with a roll of eyes, “or put it on a ballot.”
“I’ve heard complaints from residents that we aren’t looking at all the costs. And interest rates are going up. It could be a lot more money.” said Jim.
The City Manager jumped in excitedly, “I’ve told you just ignore the complainers. They’re dangerous. Stay away from them. Just pass the loan on a slow day when no one is paying attention and we’ll be on our way. You need to keep city employees happy.”
Karen scoffed, “We can’t trust the voters to decide this. They don’t understand the complexities of government spending. They already voted NO once before.”
Tom added, “We can’t let the subjects make these decisions. They will only ruin things. Besides, they can afford it.”
Jim leaned back in his chair. “I don’t know guys. This is a tough decision. I think we should ask a consultant. Then we can blame them if it doesn’t work out. These donuts are making me thirsty. Can we adjourn? Consultants?”