I have discovered everyone likes magic.
The fascination of making something disappear or reappear is captivating, piques our curiosity and creates a strong desire to figure out, ‘how did they do that?’
Apparently, our Mayor and Council have been taking magic lessons.
First thing to come to mind is our City budget. With a sleight of hand, a little smoke and a lot of maneuvering they produced a “balanced” budget for 2018. Now, this is very clever magic! Our City Manager has added multiple new employees at the top of the pay scale to her office since she arrived less than a year ago. When you begin to add in the millions spent on multiple lawsuits, it takes a very clever sleight of hand to make those numbers and costs disappear.
Then there is the famous, ‘now you see it, then you don’t trick.’ The most recent magic trick is the telepathy between the Ethics Committee members. Members Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe, Council Member Debi Davis and former Council Member Dominic Caserta, seemed to have the magic ability to communicate and create the Dark Money ordinance without ever meeting — through telepathy. Maybe their mind connection to create City policy is a Brown Act violation?
Their ordinance-creating magic caused a vanishing act as well — the candidate forums disappeared as a result. The residents did not like this trick at all.
Citizens complained and went to work. Hearing about the ‘disappearance’ of City sponsored forums, residents asked the League of Women Voters to hold them.
So, the ‘now you see it, then you don’t’ magic continues as a mystery at City Hall.
If you like magic, you absolutely must love this one. The City hired an auditor to examine the actions of the Chamber of Commerce regarding their management of the Convention Center.
With magical powers, the Council was able to gaze into the future and determine the audit outcome months prior to the release of the audit’s findings. The Mayor and City Council declared the Chamber was guilty of mismanagement, malfeasance, self-dealing and corruption. Now these are fascinating powers. Why bother spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for an audit if you already know the answer?
Oops…this was a trick that didn’t work. What the audit pointed out is: the Chamber Management Team earned a $2.2 million profit for the City this past year. Well, not every trick is perfect!
One of the Council’s big tricks was to make the Convention and Visitors Bureau disappear. With clairvoyance and cunning the Council fired the 14 employees of the CVB. This was the marketing group of the City that booked more than $100 million in local business for our City in 2017-18.
This is all part of the Council’s short-sighted but entertaining magic program. To cover their debt from lawsuits and hiring, the Mayor and City Manager needed money. To make that money appear, they needed a magic act. So, they fired the CVB employees and redirected the $1.5 million payroll to the general fund.
This sleight of hand activity gives off the appearance of fiscal integrity by our Council. But like all magic acts, it’s an illusion.
Magic is the art of appearance. What appears to be real is not. Most often, there is a planned diversion to take your attention away from the tricks.
This Mayor and Council have mastered the tactic of diversion…just make accusations of malfeasance, self-dealing and misappropriations. Keep the voters from seeing the real tricks….and real issues.
We now have a quick hands quagmire at City Hall that smacks of ‘black’ magic.
See you next week.
Miles Barber was president of the Chamber board in 1984. He has continued to serve on the board periodically over the years.