Brief intro. I’m indulging in a rant about local politics. This situation has pissed me off, and I can’t let this one go any longer. Skip this entry if you like.
Our county is in deep trouble. Because of problems with the sewer system, the county has had to make serious upgrades to the sewer to avoid creating major environmental damages to the local watershed and drinking water supply. The previous iterations of the county commission have deeply indebted the county to pay for sewer issues. There was corruption among the commissioners and contractors, and there has been a number of convictions of those involved. But in order to pay for the work, the county issued bonds to cover it, then at the advice of former commissioners and advisors renegotiated the bond interest rates. The upshot of all of this is that the county is now over multiple BILLION dollars in debt, and the interest on these bonds is $800,000 per DAY. More information about the bonds and interest swaps is in this pdf.
The county commission is divided. They have fired the first set of advisers who had no connections to any of the bankers who got the county into this mess in the first place about a month before a bankruptcy deadline. The bankers very kindly extended the deadline. Unfortunately the commission then hired advisers that did have connections to the folks who sold us those bond interest swaps and got us into this mess in the first place. The county has now missed at least 2 deadlines for interest payments, and we now owe even more money on this debt. They have no way to pay it though. They have talked about raising sewer system even higher than they are currently raising them (over 329% increase since 1997), they’ve talked about raising the occupational taxes, the sales taxes, the business licensing fees, and whatever other fees they can. The Commission president has asked for a special session of the state legislature in order to get the state constitution amended so they can raise taxes (and yes, that’s a rant for another time), but Governor Riley refused to call a special session while the county commission and local state legislators are not unanimous about the goals of the session.
A few weeks ago, the gentleman who is the head of the state teacher’s retirement system gave the commissioners an option that would not raise the sewer rates 2 or more additional percent per year that Wall Street wants and the rest of us actually paying the bills call BS on. This person has had the foresight to invest in a very large number of successful projects and has revitalized the state teachers retirement system in ways that would have been unbelievable 25 years ago. This would call for the county to declare bankruptcy and sell the sewer system to RSA for a about 1/3 of the current stated value. This has sparked a firestorm of protest by the 3 county commissioners that oppose this offer. Most of the protest boils down to “It would make us commissioners look bad because it happened on our watch.” Now, what about the fact that they’ve defaulted on the interest payments, and have no real clue how to actually deal with this? How does that actually look?
The 3 majority commissioners held “public hearings” that were spin sessions intended to put out their point of view, not listen to their constituents. Idiots. Stupid pandering idiots. Not only that, but they didn’t even have the common courtesy to all attend the meetings that they scheduled to dump their spin into the public. And they wonder why residents are not happy with them and their plan? They are willfully ignorant. When they are balked in their attempts to screw us over, the commission voted to include in the November ballot a NONBINDING Referendum of 3 different options of resolution of this for the county residents to vote on. Remember, the loans on the bonds are racking up $800,000 in interest EACH DAY!
Now, in today’s paper, there is an article that says that they are PAYING a PR firm $49,000 to push the “Bankruptcy is a Very bad option for the county” line. This is the same commission that can’t afford the 100 Million Dollar interest payment on the bonds? They are spending our money on a PR campaign to push the banks agenda, but won’t work to make this end? And want to drag this out 3.5 more months until November? I am beyond pissed off. I am Beyond LIVID! These jerks are spending our money to increase the interest for the bankers, and are not willing to make reasonable decisions to actually do their jobs!! And we can’t even recall them. The state constitution does not allow for recall of county elected officials. But, according to John Archibald, the governor can remove officials from their offices that willfully ignore and neglect those offices. Its time for him to do so. The commissioners have willfully neglected and incompetently mis-handled their offices.
I’m in Betty Fine Collins’ district. I didn’t vote for her last election, and I’m not going to be voting for her next time. Next time, I will be actively campaigning for an opponent of hers. And I think I’m about to draft a letter to Governor Riley asking him to remove Collins and Smoot from office. They have incompetently handled this and willfully neglected this situation until it was beyond help. Bowman is going to be gone in November, since his district’s contested election is happening and he won’t be on the ballot. But now we the tax payers are left holding the bag that was created with the corruption, mismanagement, and idiocy of several generations of the county commission.