Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of '06

Thanks to Oshkosh Common Council members Bryan Bain, Bill Castle, Shirley Mattox, Meredith Scheuermann and Burk Tower for amending the solid waste fee so that we are only charged the $10 per month for the last quarter of 2006, instead of the final quarter of this year and all of 2007. It would have been very easy to just approve it all the way across the board, but they didn't. Council members Dennis McHugh and Paul Esslinger, on the other hand, did not support the amended ordinance. Both were of the opinion that the fee should be struck down altogether.

Mr. McHugh has certainly been consistent in this regard and his vote shouldn’t have shocked anyone. Paul Esslinger, on the other hand, continues to be a mass of contradiction and while I’m hardly surprised by anything he says or does these days, I am amazed at how easily he utters words in such complete contradiction to what he has repeatedly said for months.

Indeed, since late last year we have heard Esslinger say that a garbage fee, while the “worst of two evils” was still “better than what we have” and that it was more fair to people and businesses alike. Yet tonight, as I said in the opening paragraph, he completely voted against the fee in its entirety, even as amended. While some might say “Good for him; he’s really watching out for us,” I find myself wondering who he’s more closely watching out for.

City manager Dick Wollangk said tonight that to not implement a fee in the last quarter would mean several positions being cut – possibly as high as 25 – because the 2006 budget we’re already five months into was approved with fee collections figured into it. He said the only way to avoid personnel cuts would be to dip into the city’s fund equity for the $600,000+ needed to eliminate the garbage fee this year. That, he said, had the potential to cause ripple effects with our bonding and we might not be able to get the same favorable bond rate we currently have. That argument makes sense, except for the fact that when it came time for building the “bid-waived” bathrooms at the Leach Amphitheater, the then-city council had no problem dipping into our general fund for the approximately $600,000 needed for that project. So let’s see: we weren’t concerned about our bond rating being affected for bathrooms, but we are worried about it being affected by our using some money for the operating budget because of a state-imposed levy freeze. Interesting “logic.”

Naturally I would have prefered no fee at all, but I believe that to remove it from this year's budget would have had major effects on city operations in the immediate future, short of using money from fund equity.

Since it was apparent the council was not going to pull money from that resource, the choices then became more clear-cut: either do away with the fee altogether and force layoffs; or keep the fee for only three months and look for ways to balance the budget in 2007 without fees. A majority of the council favored keeping the fee in place for Oct-Dec. of this year and seeing if we couldn’t do away with it during next year. They say they are committed to doing that, and I applaud them for that stance. I hope they follow-through.

In articulating their reasons for the amendment and ordinance as amended, some of the councilors explained how they’d tried to put forth alternatives to the fee last November when the 2006 budget was being discussed and ultimately approved. Their basic feeling was that the time to have headed off a fee and additional budget problems was then; not when it came time to establish and approve a fee several months down the road.

Esslinger then took his familiar seat in the grandstand and accused his fellow councilors of covering their “collective backsides.” He also said that even though he supported the garbage fee back in the fall, the citizens hadn’t spoken out on it prior to that. He said he's heard from a lot of people since then and hardly anyone was in favor of the fee. His “bosses” have spoken, he said, and he was going to be responsive to them and vote down any fee.

While his pandering sounded good, there are two problems I see with Esslinger’s comments. First, Esslinger has a reputation of voting for what he believes to be right, even if it means going against the public grain. Case in point: the angel in the park controversy. It seems pretty clear most people think that is the wrong place for the statue, but Esslinger has stood his ground on that issue and supports it.

The second problem I see is that even though people had not spoken out against the fee at budget time they certainly have ever since then. I would dare say the garbage fee issue has been one of the most widely discussed topics among Oshkoshonians since last fall. Despite that, Mr. Esslinger continued to maintain that the fee was the right thing to do. He even challenged those running against him for city council in last month’s spring election to explain where they’d find the money to replace the garbage fee if it were repealed. Now suddenly he claims to be listening to “his bosses” and figures the city manager should come up with the money to replace the fees beginning immediately. Ain’t politics grand?

I guess for some politicians, campaign season never ends. Could another swing at mayor be in Mr. Esslinger’s future? Is that what tonight’s grandstanding and posturing was all about? Or is it just Esslinger being contrary again?

- Cheryl

A final note: During Citizen Statements resident and local businessman Carl Sosnoski announced that he will try getting a binding referendum on the November ballot to "end this nonsense." I don't know if that means he's going to try having the final quarter fee repealed (though it will likely be paid by most of us by the time of the November election) or if this is merely an attempt to stop anything in 2007 and/or beyond. Sosnoski can be reached by interested citizens at 235-1727.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of ’06
Authored by: chzhead on Wednesday, May 10 2006 @ 05:44 AM MDT

You will look for anyway to make the conservatives like Esslinger, McHugh, Becker and the Montes look like crap won't you? You have now bashed on Esslinger for doing exactly what the taxpayers (constituents) want him to do. He set his personal feelings aside and voted against this fee and you bash on him.

Are YOU setting up for a run for Mayor? Or are you going to try at another council seat? Sure looks like it from the cheap seats.

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of '06
Authored by: admin on Wednesday, May 10 2006 @ 07:09 AM MDT

(A) Define "cheap seats" - an expression used far too often by you and those of your ilk. Please enlighten us as to what you mean in THIS case.

(B) Glad to see you have such "high" standards, though double ones, at that. You criticize me for being critical of folks, yet you and your pals take every opportunity to be critical of me. Hmm!

(C) I didn't cut on Dennis McHugh at all. His position has remained consistent on the fee issue.

(D) I don't have to LOOK for ways to make some people look bad. Their own actions do that from where many people stand.

(E) I didn't bash Esslinger for doing what the taxpayers wanted him to do. I didn't "bash" him at all. I was critical of the way in which it was done (by, going after his fellow councilors for their comments and efforts they tried five or six months ago, but which he voted against). I was also critical of him for trying to make himself look like the good guy who's listening to taxpayers when right up until last month's election he marched to the beat of his own drummer on the fee issue. I call that pandering and grandstanding. His own voting record shows that he does not ALWAYS do what the taxpayers want him to do. Don't forget, I'm one of Mr. Esslinger's bosses too, whether he - or you - like it or not.

Incidentally, let me assure you I don't take EVERY opportunity to make Mr. Esslinger look like "crap," as you claim. In fact, there is at least one thing that to this point I've held back from "reporting" to the general public, but which I've shared with a number of people privately. The consensus is that, if told, it would REALLY make Esslinger look like "crap" (i.e., small, petty, childish, foolish, ultra thin-skinned and like someone who exercises not real good judgment). But again, his own actions would paint the portrait for the public, not anyone informing the public of them.

Have a fine day!

- Cheryl

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of '06
Authored by: NewVoice on Sunday, May 14 2006 @ 09:11 AM MDT
You have always been quite a journalist. You have also complained when others knew information you thought the general public needed to know. Now you are withholding information about an elected official from the community. That seems a bit inconsistant with your previous stance. If you know something about Esslinger, as a journalist, you are ethically obligated to reveal. Maybe I overestimated you. Sorry.

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of '06
Authored by: admin on Sunday, May 14 2006 @ 08:19 PM MDT
New Voice, those other things you refer to have to do with people's own job performance and/or their positions on issues surrounding their respective bids for office. This does not. Let me assure you, neither I, nor the others I've shared this with - including other journalists - believe there is an ethical obligation to "report" this information. I think it goes more to character and character traits than anything else. That is one of the reasons the word "reporting" was in quotation marks. Have a nice evening.

- Cheryl

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of '06
Authored by: Thedog on Wednesday, May 10 2006 @ 05:30 PM MDT
Did Mr. Esslinger really think there were citizens for the tax, I mean fee, last year when they approved the budget and he was for the fee? This guy becomes more of a joke every meeting.

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of '06
Authored by: admin on Saturday, May 13 2006 @ 04:37 PM MDT
Big Dog,

To read some of the ridiculous comments from people on the blogs, you would certainly think so. Either they've been bamboozled or they think we're dumb enough to be.

- Cheryl

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of ’06
Authored by: admin on Wednesday, May 10 2006 @ 08:59 AM MDT
There appears to be a glitch with the posting of some comments on this thread. They are being counted in the reply meter but not showing up on the screen. In order to see them (or reply to them), you may have to do so in a "flat" format. We are sorry for the inconvenience and are working to resolve the problem. If it cannot be resolved, the missing posts (one from Cheryl and one from chzhead) will be deleted and reposted by site administration.

Garbage fee passes, but only for final quarter of '06
Authored by: admin on Wednesday, May 10 2006 @ 09:09 AM MDT
[The following two comments were posted earlier this morning, but due to technical difficulties were not able to be viewed in a regular format. After several efforts to resolve the problem, the posts were deleted and are being reposted here. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience. - Site Administration]

Authored by: chzhead on Wednesday, May 10 2006 @ 06:18 AM MDT
The 'cheap seats' I refer to is to make comments from the sidelines under the anonymous moniker. I was referring to myself in this case.

Next, I was making a blanket statement about the candidates you have bashed on lately.

You sure found a way to spin things in a negative light when Esslinger is concerned and on Tony's site you even congratulated the other council members on voting yes. Did you think about all the people that will lose service for those months? They will not be able to simply resume city collection if the fee goes away and then they will be paying for a service that they no longer receive. That is good representation of our council? They should have looked for alternatives.

Authored by: admin on Wednesday, May 10 2006 @ 08:23 AM MDT
Chzhead, thanks for explaining your "cheap seats" comment and that you were referring to yourself.

Again, I do not see myself as "bashing" on anyone. I will be critical where I believe it is warranted and I will likewise give praise where I believe it is warranted. I have ALWAYS done that and do not intend to change. It is interesting how you will jump all over me for my opinions when, quite frankly if you read the comments in the paper and on the Internet, or you listen to what people are actually saying on the street, you'll find that there are many who feel as I do about plenty of issues. Yet you and those like you consistently choose to single me out instead of speaking about people in general. That makes it look like YOU are the one with the axe to grind. Very hypocritical, but exactly what I've come to expect.

Again, you claim I have spun things in a negative light. Simply not true. I pointed out the obvious and if you don't think so, ask around. Yes, I certainly did give the five councilors kudos for their not putting a fee on the books in 2007. I believe that was the right thing to do, especially since approving such a fee would have been the easy thing to do. But if you read what I wrote here, I did take issue with the fact that the council would not use fund equity for getting rid of the fee even this year, but some of these same councilors had no problem using the fund for bathrooms at the Leach. Perhaps you missed that point.

You speak about the people who will lose service for those three months. I will paraphrase something Mr. Esslinger said months ago: nothing's perfect. He himself thought the fee system was more fair than the way it's currently being done. I will also point out that businesses, while perhaps not receiving a service that they're paying for (under the current system), still have been able to deduct trash removal services on their taxes as a business expense. I will also point out that more and more communities are moving away from collecting trash from commercial entities. While that may not be right or fair, it has been becoming the "way of the world" for awhile now. But again, if they're paying for it on their property taxes they're still getting the tax break on their tax returns.

- Cheryl