I’ve been following the budget planning and union negotiations closely this year. Once again I don’t know why I expected Claudia Ortega, Christine Stevens and Roger Bray to work together with the mayor and other City Council members to accomplish anything.
During Thursday’s meeting, Ortega and Stevens requested information that is counter to requests they made earlier in the budget process. I watched Stevens as she accused Rick Cheatum, Linda Leeuwrik and Heidi Adamson of wanting to have things done as they have always been done. If you mean make sound, informed decisions then, for once, Stevens was correct. The obstruction put on by the coalition of three is appalling. If they treated people like they do during meetings in a modern workplace, they would be disciplined and/or terminated. I’ve seen heated council discussions in the past with Orr and Moore, but they were able to make solid decisions.
The demand for a list of items that shows department priorities shouldn’t be difficult to compile; however, during the early planning process, staff were told to stay flat. Nothing is stopping council members from tracking or making their own list of priorities from the presentations shown. When I am engaged at work in meetings, I make my own priority list of what I need to do. Why are council members any different? Why expect staff to complete this “secretarial” (Stevens’ own word) task for you?
As for Stevens’ comments about taxpayers not trusting the council, that’s on uninformed people for not being more involved in the process. Streaming has been available for years and you can listen anytime on YouTube. I trust the decisions made by past councils, not the coalition of three, mind you. I’ve seen their social media messages so I know not to trust their spin of what I can see for myself.
I am concerned with Bray’s misunderstanding/misconstruing of what his tax assessment increase means. Given that he’s a member of a governmental policy-making body, I have higher expectations that he would educate himself. An increase in taxable value of 35 percent doesn’t mean your taxes will increase exactly the same. There are many other factors involved and shame on him for making that incorrect statement. Due to his position, some people, luckily not me, take what he says as truth. I know better. Maybe it was the public budgeting class in the master’s program, my internship at the assessor’s office, or my time in public employment, but I know how public budgeting works. Just as Bray should for as many years and he has been on council.
Roger Bray is good to always focus on the poverty rate in Pocatello, but he fails to recognize that statistically that population has a disproportionate usage of the services he, Ortega and Stevens are advocating to reduce. This point was brought up in a budget session by the, now former, CFO. These three council members were elected by a group of people tired of the way the city was functioning and wanting something better; however, the result is far worse. As a property tax payer, I would love for commercial businesses to pay more share of the tax burden, especially through economic development. However, when a business does its research prior to making a decision to locate somewhere I’m sure they look at local council meetings. The constant theatrics may be one reason Pocatello struggles to attract new significant business.
Stevens’ constant statements of “confusion” or not “understanding” something are at the point of ridiculousness. This is her second budget session, and if she were watching during her campaign and recall efforts, she should know more by now. All the budget and city council meetings are archived and easily available on the city’s web page; she can go back and review to learn more or get clarification on a process she doesn’t understand.
The frequent disparagement of city employees is old. I pay property taxes and I expect to get something for doing so. I have access to a local airport for convenience of travel. The one time in 20 years I called an ambulance, one responded. When my daughter was in a car accident, a police officer was quickly on scene. I also like streets, my trash removed, drinking water and sewer services (taxed differently and user fees involved). I am an educated taxpayer and I know that taxes are how governments run.
As a local homeowner and taxpayer, I expect more from my local elected officials than the current obstructionist attitudes and disrespectful behaviors displayed by Ortega and Stevens and constant “no” votes of Bray. The circus politics that have prevailed for the last 10 years in D.C. have no place in Pocatello.
I commend the work Cheatum, Leeuwrik, Adamson, “administration” and the mayor are trying to do. You’re in an impossible position with the coalition of three and I admire your resolve. Please know there are those of us out here that support you in the difficult council in which you are a part.
Lynette Sampson graduated from Idaho State University with a master’s degree in public administration and has been a resident of the Pocatello Valley for over 20 years.