With the recent uproar over the scandal-plagued city of Bell and its high-priced city manager, I thought I’d take a closer look at our city manager, as well as the other people that spend your money.
It was known in 2003 that the state of California had a budget deficit somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 billion. As a result, we tossed Democratic Gov. Gray Davis out of office for not knowing, and then later lying about this fact. We have deep structural problems that neither party has the stomach to deal with at the federal, state and local level. Supporters of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) are using kids at lemonade stands to raise $1.5 million, while pretending they had no idea that the school district’s budget would ever get cut. Mr. Tim Cuneo, the state budget already has you scheduled for another $6 million in cuts next year. What are you planning on doing about the next budget cuts? Mr. Cuneo of the SMMUSD has just announced his resignation.
While the clowns at the SMMUSD are demonstrating how bad planning can hurt all of Santa Monica, our city manager, “Hot” Rod Gould, is a shining example of what a good city leader looks like. A city manager is really the chief financial officer (CFO) of a city, and “Hot” Rod deserves every penny we pay him. If “Hot” Rod worked in the private sector, he’d be the CFO of a company like Herbalife International. I know Rich Goudis, CFO of Herbalife, and he’s an amazingly talented man. Rich is well worth the $1 million plus compensation he earns at Herbalife. “Hot” Rod is in the same league as Rich Goudis, which is a compliment to both of these men. With his 20 years of experience in city management, “Hot” Rod’s a bargain at $278,000.
Take a moment and look at the current city budget and the report “Hot” Rod put together. It’s a well thought out document that shows why he’s worth what we pay him. If you read that document, and understand what went into its creation, ask yourself if you could do it for less. If yes, we have an opening at the SMMUSD. The fact is he’s very good. Because of the hard work of Rod and his team, we’re not having to rely on lemonade stands to raise money for our police and firemen. Most people don’t know this, but even though our city manager has been on the job for only a short time, he’s already cut 2 percent of the budget. He told me, “I challenge anyone to show me where we cut it from.”
The fact is, even with the cuts he put into effect, the police still respond to calls in under two minutes. That’s amazing! But that’s not all he’s done. He leads a team of very talented people who seem to understand that you have to balance fiscal responsibility with the social needs of the people. What the rest of the state doesn’t understand is, if the government is bankrupt, they will cut services. “Hot” Rod is a realist, and that’s what we need. A liberal puke would bankrupt the city to offer social services until they have no one else to tax. Even Fidel Castro recently stated: “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” So the grand experiment is over, and a generation of social justice has run into the stark reality that you cannot just pass your expenses on for someone else to pay later.
The SMMUSD knew years in advance that the state was going to cut spending for schools. This year, they saw a $6 million shortfall, and an additional $6 million in cuts will hit them next year as well. With $12 million in cuts already scheduled, what are they doing about it? Forget raising money to fend of the current round of layoffs. Next year will cut even deeper, and no amount of lemonade stands can make up the shortfall. The job of a good CFO is to create a stable budget that keeps as many people in jobs as possible for the long term. It’s to build a fund to protect the budget from possible future cuts as well. In 2009, the SMMUSD spent about $123 million. With that in mind, they should be giving us a $100 million budget based on the funding shortfall that’s going to happen. Instead, they’re pretending they have no idea what’s going to happen next, and blame the state of California.
Santa Monica College saw the writing on the wall, and got us to give them $295 million dollars in bonds, while SMMUSD was quiet. L.A. County has seen a 16 percent drop in revenue, even as they raise taxes. In stark contrast, our city manager is keeping our city solvent, while continuing to balance the social needs with city services the people of Santa Monica require. The current half-cent sales tax increase on November’s ballot is to make sure our city budget will be balanced moving forward, and was purposely not raised for the schools, since our city will most likely need it.
David Alsabery is the founding member of the “Hot” Rod Gould Fan Club and all around nice guy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.