Haddix, Imker joust over budgetary blog post
Dienhart chides fellow council members for arguing, casting poor light on PTC
A blog post from Mayor Don Haddix referencing the city budget riled up two of his fellow council members at the April 19 meeting.
A complaint about the post from Councilwoman Kim Learnard led to a heated exchange between Haddix and Councilman Eric Imker. The Haddix-Imker vitriol subsequently drew criticism from Councilman George Dienhart.
“This needs to end,” Dienhart said. “You are embarrassing the city. Collectively, we are embarrassing the city. The city deserves better leadership than we are providing at this moment. This needs to end and it needs to end now. You two need to work together for the betterment of the city, not against each other. This is pathetic!”
Dienhart then got up from his chair and left council chambers briefly before returning.
Imker agreed with Dienhart’s assessment of the situation as “pathetic” but instead of backing off, threw virtual lighter fluid on an already-lit charcoal grill by saying: “I’m just waiting for the next 18 or 19 months for this leadership to be over,” Imker said.
“That’s right. So am I,” Haddix replied.
Whereupon Haddix and Imker resumed their debate as council members Learnard and Vanessa Fleisch moved to adjourn the meeting for the routine agenda-ending executive (closed) session.
It took a few seconds, but the combatants eventually picked up on the cue. The motion passed unanimously.
The dust-up between Imker and Haddix began after Learnard quoted extensively from the mayor’s blog post from earlier that day and asked Haddix to drop the issue in the blogs. The blog post referred to is online in the “Comments” section at www.TheCitizen.com, where Haddix occasionally posts under his own name.
Learnard was questioning a blog post written by Haddix that referred to the city’s plans to spend $3 million to lower the city reserves and balance the budget the next two years.
Learnard ultimately had a request for Haddix.
“We need to, I am asking you nicely, to quit this in the blogs, please,” Learnard said to Haddix.
“Or what?” Haddix shot back.
“Or nothing,” Learnard replied. “I am just asking you nicely to stop doing this in the blogs.”
After Imker said he took “great exception” to the content of the post, Haddix contended the information was accurate.
“The whole thing is full of inaccuracies and outright lies,” Imker said.
“It is not,” Haddix said. “You and your ‘lie’ accusations.”
Imker argued that Haddix’s post created the impression that the city would be spending the city’s reserves down into the negative. Imker said the city’s reserve target is $6 million but the city currently has $9 million in cash reserve on hand.
“That’s a misrepresentation trying to have some kind of political gain of some kind. I don’t understand,” Imker said.
Imker also challenged Haddix’s contention in the blog that the city took on an additional $5 million in debt. The council recently authorized a $3 million facilities improvement bond which is certainly additional debt that didn’t exist before, but the other $2.4 million referred to previously existing debt that was refinanced at a lower interest rate, Imker said.
“Five million is a misrepresentation and it’s either ignorance or outright lies, and I tend to think it’s the latter,” Imker said.
Haddix noted that he disagreed with the lowering of city reserves. Imker asked why Haddix hadn’t pointed out that the city added $2 million to the reserves over the past two years.
Haddix said that windfall was “from a tax increase, not from fiscal responsibility.” Haddix had opposed the 1.25 mill property tax increase that was approved by council in 2010.
“By my estimation, we are still spending more than we bring in,” Haddix said.
Imker suggested Haddix wait until the city opens the upcoming budget discussions “and then we can yell at each other.”
Haddix chided Imker for painting a rosy picture of sales tax increases a short while back using figures from the busiest months of the year.