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Saturday Column: Politicians could learn lesson from city manager

Both Kansas and the United States are facing severe fiscal constraints — uncontrolled spending on the part of Uncle Sam and a combination of questionable tax policies and a soft economy placing Kansas in a tight budget situation.

In both cases those in charge of the budgets, President Barack Obama and members of Congress as well as Gov. Sam Brownback and state legislators have been derelict in not practicing and demanding sound fiscal policies.

Fortunately, Lawrence’s new city manager, Tom Markus, is calling attention to a shaky fiscal situation and making a strong case that it is important to reduce expenses before the city and its residents discover the city is in a serious debt situation.

Far better to be on top of a dangerous matter than to try to dig yourself out of a deep, dangerous and debilitating hole.

Markus has suggested the elimination of some positions on the city payroll and cutting back on several costly city-funded projects.

The response was immediate: Markus, some claimed, did not appreciate or understand that Lawrence is different from most cities and that is what makes it a special community.

It’s the same old refrain some like to say: “It’s nice to live in Lawrence so you can tell your friends you do not live in Kansas.”

Yes, Lawrence is a special place, a great city in which to live, play and work, and we may want to have a few extras other cities lack or do not want or appreciate.

Chances are Markus would like to have some of the “unconventionals,” but not if these extras are going to place the city in a debt position. Do residents want higher taxes to enjoy the “nontraditional” personnel and programs?

Markus is calling for fiscal sanity. He isn’t against the various projects and office positions if the city can afford these extras or unusual positions. His job is to assess the fiscal condition of the city, make his thoughts and concerns known to city commissioners and to the public and leave it to the commissioners to make the call.

It’s up to the commissioners to decide what they think is essential, what the city can afford and what is in the best interests of the citizens.

Markus is a highly regarded, experienced professional, and he is working with a relatively inexperienced City Commission. He is offering his best advice as to what he thinks is best for the city.

It would have been good for the country and Kansas if our leaders had been honest with the public about expenditures, revenues and what was essential and nontraditional. Unfortunately, they called for actions and policies designed to win votes rather than for fiscal responsibility. Look where we are today.

Markus is suggesting, calling for and/or warning the city to not fall into a serious debt situation. He is sure to have stepped on some toes, but better to do this than to be afraid to speak up and alert commissioners and the public to the dangers of overspending and placing the city in a debt situation.

Comments

Carol Bowen

"It would have been good for the country and Kansas if our leaders had been honest with the public about expenditures, revenues and what was essential and nontraditional. Unfortunately, they called for actions and policies designed to win votes rather than for fiscal responsibility. Look where we are today."

This is almost a good comparison, except that the state legislature and congress do not listen to their advisors. At the state level, we find advisors that agree with our philosphy. In D.C., congress does its best to discredit its advisors. The Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve Board, and other sources of information are not welcome.

In Lawrence, we do not accept "No" easily. I hope we can hang in there long enough to level off the budget. Tom Markus is straightforward with his analyses and recommendations, and he follows the city commission's goals. He's a very strong manager. Now, are the commissioners strong enough to listen to his counsel, but follow through as they see fit?

1 year, 4 months ago

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Richard Heckler

If the USA government would stop occupying several of the oil countries and such the trillions being spent this massive illegal occupation costing trillions annually could be spent creating NEW industry and jobs that Washington D.C. has wiped out though risky financed leveraged buyout schemes supported by Free Trade Agreements which always has put USA jobs as the chief export.

GOP economics in general as well as at the state level has not been about fiscal responsibility ever. GOP economics requires a ton of borrowing to support Supply Side Economics. The big banks love the profiteering aspect of Supply Side Economics.

Privatization is reckless and irresponsible because it turns over government services and all of the tax dollar support to "private industry" which makes private industry NOT private industry.

1 year, 4 months ago

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Richard Heckler

Locally Economic Displacement cannot replace Economic Growth and will never be able to replace economic growth because economic displacement does NOT generate economic growth.

Economic Displacement does in fact increase taxes,fees,rates etc etc etc. No matter how they are presented rates and fees are taxes simple as that.

In essence economic displacement is worthless to the local economy.

1 year, 4 months ago

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Bob Summers

In essence, an over bearing Lord is worthless to the vassals economy.

1 year, 4 months ago

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Carol Bowen

Yes. We are just recycling the money through income to taxes to income to to taxes. ...

1 year, 4 months ago

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Charles L. Bloss, Jr.

I think Lawrence had best listen to his assessment. That is what you are paying him for.

1 year, 4 months ago

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Kendall Simmons

Lawrence actually really needs to remember that "listening to his assessment" doesn't equate to his being right or that we should do what he recommends.

1 year, 4 months ago

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Paul R Getto

When has any party or politician been honest about financial matters? We elect people from both parties who promise things we choose not to pay for.

1 year, 4 months ago

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Paul R Getto

I should have specified Federal officers. Locally and up to the state level "honest" books are required.

1 year, 3 months ago

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