Way back in the Seventies, there was a US Senator named William Proxmire. His claim to fame was something he called “The Golden Fleece Award”. He was fond of giving this prize to the Government agency, project or program that he considered to be wasted money, and was thereby fleecing the taxpayer. The Temecula Sunshine Report has resolved to continue the Senators work. It won’t be easy to choose only one, but the Report is determined to do it’s duty and each edition will feature a local case in point for the most ridiculous, extravagant, excessive, overgenerous, spendthrift and suspicious abuse of your hard earned tax dollars.
This month’s Golden Fleece Award goes to…
SKATE RINK MELTDOWN (City of Temecula Old Town Skate Rink)
The Temecula City Council loves to tout their balanced budget, crediting that triumph to running the City like a business. Well, our City Business must have plenty of money to waste, because they certainly do that. Imagine if your own business paid it’s supplier to deliver a product to your customer, and then allowed that supplier to collect and keep your profit. How long could you stay in business?
In what’s described as a”belt tightening” move, the City has shortened the season of the holiday ice skating rink, because it apparently costs us over $2600.00 a day!
What the heck? It loses money?
Certainly, it’s not appropriate for government to make a profit, but why put so much effort into wasting it?
On October 25, 2011, the Temecula City Council approved payment of $45,000 to Studio 33 Productions to set up and operate the annual Christmas skating rink attraction in the city hall plaza. Last year, the council wasted $90,000 on the same rink, so, of course, this year we “saved” $45,000! At least, that’s what the council wants you to think. But don’t worry. The citizens get to make up the difference since the skate rental fees are going up to pad the pockets of the rink operators.
OK, so the city owns the land and parking structure. It contracts with a private company to supply and operate the equipment. The company charges and keeps admission price, plus skate rental fees, and gets free advertising. So, why aren’t they paying us rent at the very least, OR a concession fee at best? Evidently, the contractor can’t make a profit with only 12,400 customers a month, so we subsidize him, or somebody, to the carol of $2647.00 a day. Well, Merry Christmas! That’s like paying to pet your own dog.
The idea is to “help Old Town businesses by luring potential customers” and consequentially increasing sales tax revenue to the City. Sound great, but as this “deal” costs the city at least $45,000 in subsidy, those Old Town sales alone would have to swell by $4,500,000 in one month, just to offset the investment with our take of the tax increment. Something else is going on here, besides giving Maryann Edwards yet another venue to sing and skate in. Or, it could just be that simple, and that wouldn’t surprise a lot of people one bit.
Here’s an idea. We go out for bid and find a Company that can figure a way to make a profit with 12,400 customers a month. We let him keep all the proceeds from those customers. We don’t pay him anything. He benefits. The shopkeepers welcome increased traffic and sales, and the City realizes a modest increase in sales tax revenue. Everybody has a good time, and Maryann still gets to squawk and spin around the rink like some past-prime Peter Pan.
If we can’t find a contractor willing to take that deal (fat chance) we shouldn’t have an ice skating rink this year.
Last month’s Golden Fleece Award went to…
CASH CROP (Mary Phillips Senior Center Community Garden)
Have you ever planted a vegetable garden? The pungent smell of the freshly tilled soil. Tiny seedlings bursting forth into the Spring sunshine. Juice dripping from the first ripe tomato. The tens of thousands of dollars spent on garden construction. The……..
WAIT A MINUTE. DID YOU SAY TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS??
Well, yes, if you let the City Of Temecula build it. That’s what the Community Garden at the Mary Phillips Senior Center cost, $24,000 to be exact. But wait, it must be a huge plot right? Half acre? Quarter? Well not quite, try 288 square feet of raised beds. And how much of this area is available to the “community” for it’s use? Well, none actually. It’s planted by the City, maintained by volunteers and enclosed with a six foot fence to keep the likes of you, out. To make sure they’re not gonna lose ‘er.
So, how did it happen that a vegetable garden cost as much to build ($83/SF) as a custom home? Well, ask Mayor Ron Roberts, noted horticulturist and truck farmer. It’s his project. (Why is he always the fall guy?)
A quick estimate of the job by a professional contractor yielded the following bid:
Material (at retail home center prices) $7000.00
Labor (160 man hours at a generous $15.00/ hour) $2400.00
Total material and labor $9400.00
It’s not clear from the article or the agenda if construction was by contract or City workers. If it was contracted, that leaves about $14,600.00 for the contractor. Not bad for a weeks work. In fact it’s almost twice as much as the City Manager makes.
If it was built by City workers, then $17,000 was left on the table. Wonder where that went? But hey it’s not real money, just the taxpayer’s money.
Nobody’s against gardening or seniors, but this is a frivolous, inefficient use of our hard earned money. Roberts says he wants more built throughout the city. Bet he does.