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Brad Harrington

A Motion To Adjourn Is Always In Order

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My wife Barbie and I recently decided to start attending Cheyenne City Council meetings. What with me in the middle of a book on Will Rogers, I thought I'd try writing about it from a "humorous" perspective.

Never really tried that before; if it's a flop, let me know and I won't make that mistake again!

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

********************

A MOTION TO ADJOURN IS ALWAYS IN ORDER

By Bradley Harrington

What with our government running hog-wild both locally and nationally--and City Hall being a lot closer than the White House--my wife Barbie and I figured it was high time to get on downtown and observe the city’s inner workings for ourselves. A real eye-opener, we can tell you that--or an eye-closer, depending on your point of view.

While a number of items presented themselves on the Governing Body’s May 24th agenda, the two that ended up causing the most tangles were the Board of Public Utilities’ (BOPU) rate increase requests and Vandehei Avenue’s “calming” traffic islands.

The BOPU has asked the city for a 6 percent increase in water fees, sewer fees, tap fees, system development fees, pump station fees, administrative fees, septic waste dump rates, commercial waste dump rates, service charges, and maybe funding for the next NASA space shuttle launch as well, for FY 2011.

Last week’s Finance Committee whacked those requests down to 3.4 percent, and it wasn’t long before the Council had BOPU Director Tim Wilson standing front and center. Councilwoman Judy Case wanted to know where the BOPU dreamed up the 6 percent figure; Mr. Wilson replied that the “All-Urban Consumer Price Index” for 2009 water and sewer utilities all across the country had risen by 6.9 percent.

Councilman Jim Brown had difficulty understanding why what happened in New York or Los Angeles was relevant to Cheyenne, and Ms. Case wasn’t too fond of the use of a national CPI as a baseline either. Can’t say I have much use for it, myself; seems like every time I blink an eye that figure changes--upward.

In the real world, you might think the proper basis for determining a business’s rate increases would be its actual costs of production--but BOPU-land, remember, as a government owned-and-controlled “enterprise,” has its rates divorced from the true profit-loss signals of the marketplace.

Still, Councilwoman Amber Ash had the good sense to ask Mr. Wilson what factors were driving the rate increases anyway, and Mr. Wilson was kind enough to amplify: group health insurance increases (15 percent) and worker’s compensation increases (over 100 percent) were at the top of the list, bringing in the BOPU budget at about $450,000 over the previous year’s amount.

At that point, Councilman Jack Spiker wanted to know: how much money would the BOPU acquire if the rate increase requests of 3.4 percent were approved? Wilson’s answer: about $450,000. Mr. Spiker grinned at that--but was polite enough to refrain from drawing the obvious conclusion. Would the BOPU really raise its rates just to cover the cost increases of its bloated bennies? Nah. That’s just my paranoid thinking.

Next, Miss Ash asked: why, if the BOPU could get by on 3.4 percent, did it ask for 6 percent? Good thing she didn’t ask me: I would have said, “I took what I wanted and doubled it.” Mr. Wilson, obviously, has more negotiational acumen than I do; he said the extra money would have gone to fund some loans for FY 2011 and 2012.

Finally, all five amendments and all five motions on the rate increases’ second readings came up to vote, ten in all. Everybody said “Aye” except Ms. Case, still objecting to the fishiness of the CPI. Too bad the Governing Body didn’t vote faster; her voice would have made a great beat to the song “No No No” by Ringo Starr.

Being a parliamentary-procedure neophyte, I’m not sure I really understand the need for voting on something three times. Is that so we can be absolutely sure that this is what we want? In that case, I’d like to put the 2008 presidential election up for one more shot.

The next motion was the Knife River contractors’ $1 million bid for several Cheyenne street projects, which included a $31,100 proposal to remove the $210,000 “calming” islands installed along Vandehei Avenue in 2002.

It didn’t take long for that bid proposal motion, however, to degenerate into a spirited discussion about the calming islands’ pros and cons. Councilman Patrick Collins said that “they work” and they’re paid for, but Councilman Jimmy Valdez argued that if they were a mistake they should be removed. “All I see on them is skid marks,” he said.

Under interrogation, City Engineer Doug Vetter stated that he did not think the calming islands were a mistake, but that they could’ve been “better designed.” I’d tend to agree: snow plows need both lanes to plow, curb sweepers can’t fit between the islands and the sidewalks, and large vehicles have to turn into opposing traffic to avoid running them over. But hey, they’re paid for.

As the calming island interplay continued, I began to wonder if Mr. Vetter was going to have to install a couple of them in the Council chambers themselves; that wouldn’t have cost the taxpayers more than another $15,000 or so. Chump change.

Finally, by 8:45 p.m., Barbie and I had to leave; we could hear the Council still jawing it over on our way out the door.

And the final tally? The WTE news the next morning said the Governing Body voted 7-2 to table it until June 14th, of course. Because a motion to adjourn is always in order.

--

Bradley Harrington is a former United States Marine and a free-lance writer who lives in Cheyenne; he can be reached at timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com.

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I think a column like that is very valuable. How many people ever take the time to attend such meetings of their local government? And I would think you could catch them in the act of trying to get away with many a boondoggle, which, one would hope, they would be discouraged from if they knew YOU were there to report it to the public.

Great work.

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I am reminded here of the old adage "what you don't know can't hurt you" - except that it DOES hurt. Ignorance is bliss only to those who claim mindlessness is the path to a happy existence. It isn't, and never was. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and those mindless millions have no ammunition.

Thankfully, we have Bradley our intrepid reporter to dig up these gems and help expose the jerks that the mindless voted into office.

Well done AGAIN Bradley.

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I am reminded here of the old adage "what you don't know can't hurt you" - except that it DOES hurt. Ignorance is bliss only to those who claim mindlessness is the path to a happy existence. It isn't, and never was. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and those mindless millions have no ammunition.

Thankfully, we have Bradley our intrepid reporter to dig up these gems and help expose the jerks that the mindless voted into office.

Well done AGAIN Bradley.

Thanks Charles and Jason; Reed must have agreed with you; I haven't heard a word from him, which means the piece will run this Saturday. (The only time I hear from him is when there's a problem.)

Heh heh! We'll see if the "Governing Body" finds my remarks as humorous as we do.

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

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I like it. Humor is an opportunity to play intellectually while undercutting the metaphysical significance of your opponents. And who doesn't enjoy mocking small-time bureaucrats believing they have the right to determine every facet of everyone else's lives?

Humor can also keep a reader interested in what you have to say and get him to come back for the next installment.

If you like political humor, take a look at P.J. O'Rourke's work. One of my favorite lines of his: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

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Another one by O'Rourke that I love is: "If you think health care is expensive now, wait till it's free."

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I am reminded here of the old adage "what you don't know can't hurt you" - except that it DOES hurt. Ignorance is bliss only to those who claim mindlessness is the path to a happy existence. It isn't, and never was. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and those mindless millions have no ammunition.

This quote is usually said by cheaters encouraging others of their friends to cheat :D

Great article Brad, as usual. 100% wage increase! Amazing that this was approved. Perhaps you should map the jobs done by government workers, their required skill, and compare with wages in the private sector in Cheyenne, making sure to include pensions and benefits into the deal, and to cut the private guy's salary appropriately with all the charges the state tags on. Then you have a base to argue for public sector salaries to be brought in line with private sector ones! And even, lowered, since the public sector guy doesn't have to worry about being fired or doing his job well.

As for humour... it has the same biting "Brad Harrington" taste as your previous articles! You can't help your personality shining through. Definitely works.

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I like it. Humor is an opportunity to play intellectually while undercutting the metaphysical significance of your opponents. And who doesn't enjoy mocking small-time bureaucrats believing they have the right to determine every facet of everyone else's lives?

Humor can also keep a reader interested in what you have to say and get him to come back for the next installment.

If you like political humor, take a look at P.J. O'Rourke's work. One of my favorite lines of his: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

Hi Ed:

Thanks--and that has always been one of my favorite P.J. quotes. Back in the 80s', when I used to live in O.C., your hometown paper The Orange County Register used to run it on the oped pages at least once a year. Does the Register still run a good quote at the top of the page every morning?

A couple of other P.J. jewels:

"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us." :D

"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. " :D

Heh heh heh!

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

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I am reminded here of the old adage "what you don't know can't hurt you" - except that it DOES hurt. Ignorance is bliss only to those who claim mindlessness is the path to a happy existence. It isn't, and never was. Now the chickens are coming home to roost and those mindless millions have no ammunition.

This quote is usually said by cheaters encouraging others of their friends to cheat :D

Great article Brad, as usual. 100% wage increase! Amazing that this was approved. Perhaps you should map the jobs done by government workers, their required skill, and compare with wages in the private sector in Cheyenne, making sure to include pensions and benefits into the deal, and to cut the private guy's salary appropriately with all the charges the state tags on. Then you have a base to argue for public sector salaries to be brought in line with private sector ones! And even, lowered, since the public sector guy doesn't have to worry about being fired or doing his job well.

As for humour... it has the same biting "Brad Harrington" taste as your previous articles! You can't help your personality shining through. Definitely works.

Thanks, rtg24. Yes, there is definitely an investigative story to be had here...an investigation which would reveal, among other things, that the only "required skills" for government workers would be their ability to pluck a banana off a tree...and to be able to steal some honest citizen's bananas when THEY acquire any. <hoot> The Tribune Eagle ran the piece this morning; unfortunately, they don't provide any online links on their website for local commentators. Too bad! I'd love to paste it all over the Web!

Bradley

timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

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On Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" show in the mid-1990s, Dr Peikoff quipped to that bitch Janeane Garofalo something along the lines of "why not create an Office of Fabulous Wages." That was hilarious.

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