PTC Council candidate Imker: Budget tops all needed changes

Tue, 03/24/2009 - 3:46pm
By: Letters to the ...

I don’t want any questions on how I intend to lead if elected. I simply want to see this city return to some fiscal and development rationality while keeping the recreational and leisure lifestyle offered here the best it can be.

My letter a couple weeks ago about the Peachtree City budget spending $2 million more than they took in over the last two years while currently trying to resolve a $3.5 million shortfall for next fiscal year stirred some interesting feedback: paraphrasing, “He has no business running for office.” Or this, “We don’t have a budget problem; all we need to do is clean house.”

My reply is, I’d personally like to know WHO should run for office if I have no business running?

And, if a $3.5 million shortfall in a $25 million budget isn’t a problem, we definitely need to clean house, starting with those who don’t think that’s a problem.

I mentioned in my first candidacy letter that I successfully managed a $1 billion satellite program. It was on time and on budget. Sure, I fired a few folks along the way, but hard decisions had to be made. I’m not afraid to make them.

Apparently our leadership at City Hall and their priorities nowadays are skewed. Whether or not mailboxes have an extra space to put newspapers or whether bigger signs for businesses are what’s needed are not our highest priorities.

How out of touch can they be? Our priority right now is the budget. It seems they’ve relegated that to settling us with a tax increase or using more city reserves. How easy is that? Heck, anyone can solve the budget problem right now if that’s all they had to do.

Of course, the right solution is first to get rid of the waste. To that end I have sent the following letter to City Hall:

Please provide data of all expenses in FY2009 to date for the following: Travel by department; training by department; overtime paid by department.

Please provide data of all expenses in FY2009 to date for supplies by department.

Please provide information on city employee benefits to include the various ways and how paid time off is accrued.

Please provide information on city “comp time” rules.

Please provide data as of 3/20/2009 on the city’s obligations (various debts) and city reserves.

Please provide data on new-hire employees and their job title in FY2009 to date.

Please provide data on employee transfers and/or promotions to include their old job title and department and new job title and department in FY2009 to date. Include their old salary and new salary. Their names are not requested, just the job titles and departments.

Please provide data as to the cost to the city for the trip to China last year for (Mayor) Harold Logsdon and (City Manager) Bernie McMullen and any other employee or costs associated with that trip.

Your timely reply by April 3, 2009, is appreciated. I am providing my email address to write me when the data is available. I will come to City Hall to pick it up. Please be advised, this letter and your reply will be available to the public. It is my desire that only public information be provided. In no instance is specific employee private or personal information being requested.

It is my desire to never hide anything from you, the public, regarding government business. In fact, I have a history of going out of my way to share information so more people will see the problems and, with their help, more solutions will be identified. I will make the hard decisions apparently others are unable or unwilling to make.

Regarding a few other issues currently ongoing:

1. Leave those folks alone on Hippocket Road with their septic systems. There is nothing broke so don’t fix it. They know how to take care of their septic systems and if something needs fixing in the future, they will step up and fix it. They don’t need a $20,000 bill just because somebody thinks it doesn’t fit in.

2. The rezoning of 85 acres from industrial to residential near the airport is crazy. Is that blunt enough for you? There’s a reason it’s currently industrial. Why would any sane person want to put homes near the end of a runway or railroad track?

But alas, one must dig deeper to find the motive for trying to make this land residential. You get one guess. That’s right — Money and greed. The developer gets short-term windfall while the new residences get long-term, 10-years-from-now headaches complaining back to the city government that the place is unlivable.

By the way, what’s the motive behind the mayor wanting this change? Could it be, as others have stated, the developer was his largest campaign contributor last election? I will check this by getting a copy of the mayor’s “Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report” from last election.

3. Requesting a fee from trash service companies to use the road is petty and a hidden tax on us. What do you think the trash company is going to do? Just accept the extra cost without passing it along to us? You’ve got to be kidding. This is nothing more than a penny ante tax on us with an unknown motive by the city manager.

4. Newspaper boxes at each residence. Are you kidding? Any guess on the cost to the provider for this? Where are the priorities? Hint, the priority is the BUDGET. Hey, facetiously, why don’t we consider charging newspaper delivery trucks a fee to use the road like the trash idea?

5. Last May 2008, the council voted to tax certain businesses extra for employees. Expected revenue was a whopping $20,000 a year. All it will do is further the exodus of small business out of our city. Apparently it’s not enough to have less than 50 percent occupancy in some of our village market areas. Granted, it may not be a large increase, but precedence has been set. It says to any new business considering PTC to beware of the future. Instead of tax increase, it should be tax reductions. What would that tell future businesses about PTC? Think long-term, City Council.

Now an effort to allow bigger business signs to “help” is being considered. Bigger signs will not solve the economic downturn problem. How out of touch can one be? Remember, this was May last year.

6. Last June 2008 after writing about the business tax I wrote, “How about reducing the recent city council pay raises to generate the extra 20K?” Also I wrote, “If you need someone to come in and tell you where the dead weight is and who needs to be let go, give me an indication of your willingness to follow through on it and I’ll gladly review your books and if needed, do the dirty deed myself. Let’s get lean now before the financial crisis is on top of us.” Remember, this was June last year.

7. Certain jobs were recently filled or are soon to be vacant or are currently vacant: they include a secretary to the mayor, a financial position, the assistant city manager position, and probably several others. Do we really need to fill these positions? There’s at least $100,000 right there.

8. Do we really need a full-time purchasing person to manage a landscaping contract? That’s not a full-time job. It’s just another $50K with benefits out of our city budget. By the way, I really don’t see an $850,000 savings from firing 24 folks (I’m not going to be politically correct by saying “letting them go”) and replacing them with a contractor. Let’s wait to get the real savings. Did they add back in the cost of this purchasing person to “manage” the contract?

9. I’m extremely interested in how much overtime cost at one and a half times pay will be revealed as a result of my letter to City Hall above.

10. Similarly, I’ll be interested in how much travel cost will be revealed. I’ll be looking for “value added” travel versus a visit to some meeting half-way across the country for what some know as boondoggle trips.

But I’m telling you right now, business trips better have a good reason. They cost a bunch of money when you add up per diem (i.e., the daily cost of food for the traveler, sometimes as much as $75 a day), the cost of hotel, the cost of driving to the airport at some outrageous mileage reimbursement rate, the cost of parking at the airport, the cost of the airline ticket itself and finally the cost of not having that person here doing their job. If they can be away from the office for several days at a time and pick up when they get back without missing a beat then I’ll question the whole idea of a full-time position. I wouldn’t care if we had plenty of money on hand. Waste is waste. It doesn’t matter when it happens.

11. I want to be up front with you about my formal training on “Roberts Rules.” I’m not even sure if that is the correct way to say it. But I have no background on “motioning” or “seconding” or anything like that in City Council chambers. I figure the staff will help me get the message across and do things in proper order. I might make procedural mistakes early on, but it is my intent to get to the heart of issues (i.e., find the true motive behind requests), hear the citizens’ voice and vote accordingly.

12. I’m sending in my “Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report” required by the state Ethics Commission on April 1. It will show zero dollars. I will not accept any contributions unless it’s specified for simply doing what’s right for the city. I consider a campaign contribution by anyone asking for a vote on anything as nothing more than a bribe. That’s right, a bribe. If you think differently then vote accordingly.

13. I really find signs in front yards asking for votes distasteful and just plain ugly. You won’t find any of those from me. I realize name recognition is part of politics, so the only thing I’ll do is provide a few hand-made bumper-type signs for cars and golf carts and continue to write letters to The Citizen newspaper.

If you are amazed at a candidate speaking his mind, be prepared, for more is on the way.

Eric Imker

Candidate for City Council Post #1

(Or should it be some other office?)

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mudcat's picture
Submitted by mudcat on Sat, 03/28/2009 - 3:46am.

I usually don't read things that are more than 500 words, since they are almost always written by Steve Brown, but this Eric guy's writing style was pretty good and I was right with him until point #11 - and beyond when he made it clear he's not a serious candidate.

Too bad, because he is 100% correct about the first 10 points and his bull-inachinashop style would make televised city council meetings a must-see. Although everyone knows Sany paid for the China trip and that won't get any traction as a real issue - it is just like Steve Brown in his various blog identities whining about the illegal tennis center loans - boring!!!

But admitting to not knowing or even seriously caring about the procedure of how the city's business is conducted is a deal-killer. If Steve Boone, Carol Fritz and Murray Weed can cope with Robert's Rules, anyone can. More to the point, not caring shows disrespect. And the staff you advocate not replacing won't be much help coaching you on procedures. You have just taken yourself out, Eric.

Of course no contributions and no yard signs shows a childish naive approach to politics that some may find charming - maybe 100 voters. Sorry dude, the reason everyone else does it is they have to.

And your tag line "Or should it be some other office?" well yes, it should. You'll get more publicity by trying for mayor. No chance to win, but your one-plank platform seems to be focusing everyone on the budget and you would have more press in the mayor's race.

Submitted by cdl305 on Fri, 03/27/2009 - 11:11pm.

Certainly everyone is entitled to run for office, but candidates should stop twisting facts or tossing about innuendo in an effort to get elected.
In item 5, it is suggested that the tax increase on business in May 2008 contributed to an "exodus" of businesses from the city. The fact is, the tax increased from $17.50 to $18.50 per employee. There is a minimum of $105 (was $100) and it is maxed out at $6000, up from $5000. This is a net difference of $1 per employee and therefore has minimal effect on most business in the city. Yes, a tax increase, but an unlikely volume to create an exodus.
Item 6 suggests that the Council reduce the recent pay increase. The fact is that if you managed to get elected, it would affect you because the current Council did not get the pay raise as it has not gone into effect.
Item 7 suggests that the mayor has a secretary that should not be replaced. That is incorrect. There is an administrative assistant that provides support to the mayor, but also to the other four Council members and the City Manager. Keep in mind that being a Council member is a part time position and yet they are expected to have full time involvement which is accomplished through full time support.
Item 8 suggests that the city hired a full time purchasing person to manage the landscape contract. This is another error as the position hired is not a purchasing person but rather a Public Works employee. The position is required to supervise the contract, the quality of work and address the issues, concerns and problems that will present themselves.

Personally, I like the idea of the franchise tax on trash collectors. I spend 3 - 4 hours per month on trash patrol in the city and would like to see the program funded. I also like the idea of the newspaper box. That way I do not have to pick up the papers that blow around the neighborhood. What I would rather see is Code Enforcement issue fines to the companies for every paper that ends up somewhere it does not belong - why should I have to pick up something I did not request?

A city is more than just a budget. Leadership has to look at all aspects all the time If it were only dollars, someone would take issue to your open records request as it will take a person a number of hours to pull the items requested, taking them away from what could be required business. Your pitch on things may certainly appeal to the uninformed. You seem to be taking your lessons from Steve Brown and Don Haddix - let's inflame whether it is true or not!

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Mon, 04/06/2009 - 6:23am.

Guess that letter was treated like a gopher sticking his head out of the ground and being greeted with a baseball bat.

Bad start to a hopeless campaign. Let's get some real people on council this time. Who else is running. let's hear from you.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 03/25/2009 - 11:36am.

If you don't have respect for them, I see no need in your running for office. Read up, learn them, show some respect for the way things should be handled in a professional meeting environment. is your friend.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Tue, 03/31/2009 - 5:30am.

Not sure if this approach is the way to go when you are this early in the election process, but it will be interesting to watch.

I've always hated yard signs and direct mail pieces, so maybe now with robo calls and e-mail blasts readily available elections will be less invasive - at least visually.

Hate to break the news to you Buddy, but letters to the editor won't get the job done. In Fayette County it makes people think of Steve Brown and that is not a link that will help you.

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