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Hoffmann’s observations on the bond float

Councilman Pete Hoffmann has released the following statement:

The County Council action to delay final approval of the administration-proposed $56M bond float so that the in-coming Council can discuss the matter is a proper decision in my opinion.

Although I am a firm advocate of using the bond-issuing power of County government, so long as it is judiciously handled and does not endanger the County’s bond rating (and I do support most of the Mayor’s arguments even in the current appalling economic crisis), it was apparent that a clear majority of residents felt the new Council should be given the opportunity to debate the issue.

Apart from this aspect, the bond float debate is a microcosm of several disturbing matters that have plagued the Council and administration for the past two years. The following lists some of those concerns:

Despite significant public testimony to the contrary, the administration continued to ‘stonewall’ any opposing recommendation and forged ahead with no attempt at a compromise or cooperative solution. It appears the Mayor simply doesn’t appreciate the depth of current public irritation. When will the administration recognize that too many residents have lost fundamental trust and confidence in the Council and his administration?

Some of the public’s displeasure regarding the float might have been tempered if the administration amended Bill 311 to include a breakdown of funds requested by specific project. Need I point out there’s an underlying element of transparency, or absence of it, manifested throughout this debate?

Too many e-mails as well as oral testimony indicate a real lack of understanding of the bond float process and the nature of the County’s financial liability. That misunderstanding generates incorrect assumptions and conclusions County-wide. The fault lies with both the Council and administration.

Both entities, I feel, have a responsibility to better explain/educate the public on matters of this nature. Failure to do so leads to bad input and does nothing to enhance the effectiveness of public participation. This is similar to many misperceptions regarding the County’s operating budget, the impact fee proposal, zoning issues, etc.

Politics and political agendas are part of government at any level. Right or wrong, the inclusion of some of the projects mentioned as part of the float, were viewed by many individuals only as an effort to enhance the political futures of two Council members engaged in close campaigns during the recent General Election.

Whether one accepts that view or not, the perception remained and the administration did little to dispel that feeling. I suggest that in these difficult economic conditions, the Mayor and Council refrain from using the budget and related topics as a political battleground and work towards true cooperation. For certain, the public would be better served.

As noted previously, the Nov. 30 Council decision to delay final determination on Bill 311 serves many practical purposes. I’m optimistic that the new Council will see this as an opportunity to set a positive tone for the next two years.

In the same vein, I would encourage the administration to alter its prior approach to the Council and work to eliminate the sense of frustration and irritation that prevails in the public domain. The County’s needs are too pressing to continue to have our constituents voice a lack of trust and confidence in their elected officials.

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