Written by Mike Martin
From severance pay to fancy digs, senior city staffers spare no expense on themselves
COLUMBIA, Mo 8/23/13 (Analysis) -- Like serial robbers, Columbia's city administrators -- those non-elected leaders who get handsome salaries and benefits -- swipe money from public services to spend on their priorities.
Estimates started at $2.35 million
but ended up at $3.1 million
, 32% higher, according to then-city finance director Lori Fleming
. Who was to blame
for such a sizeable cost overrun? Certainly not the high-flying administrators who ordered the plush new office space for the parks department, Office of Cultural Affairs, and municipal court
at taxpayer expense. Blame "higher construction costs" -- even Hurricane Katrina -- said then city manager Ray Beck
Relevant to today's debate about funding police officers: Did the $3.1 million price tag halt construction, as a similar price tag -- $3.5 million -- has halted hiring more police?
Just like Garagezilla on Walnut St. And Garagezilla Jr. on Short St. And city manager Mike Matthes'
severance package, which the City Council doubled last year
. Just like the new City Hall, which has been stealing money from the city's General Fund
-- used for police -- since 2002.
Management priorities every one, most over-budget, all at considerable taxpayer expense. And all "funded total
No wonder. City administrators have the power of the purse, directing hundreds of millions of dollars
to local banks and insider business interests who pour concrete for trails; build bridges; write press materials for GetAbout
; and lay top-of-the-line carpeting in new management offices.
These special interests invariably jump on the city management bandwagon
push the community -- especially the City Council -- toward spending decisions that -- in a rising sea of unmet priorities
like violent crime, basement sewer backups, and bad streets -- are downright foolish.
But not to city management, which honored itself
after completing the Howard and Gentry renovations. "The structures represent important milestones in Columbia’s history," assistant city manager Tony St. Romaine
Funny -- city management said the same thing about the still-decrepit Blind Boone Home. -- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat