Now that the high-five slapping on backs election is over and our city has finally filed its financial report to the state it's time to get down to business (meaning no monkey business). We need to really focus on the most important thing plaguing our city. It's a particular word that really needs to be addressed, especially when operating a municipality which involves oversight and responsibility. The word is "credit." I'm hoping it will be a little different this time around where we have elected officials credible enough to fight off this gloom and doom outlook on our city finances. However time will tell whether our city officials continue to work on a path of delay and cover-ups as we did with a mural or face the reality by improving the transparency of our tax dollars.
It appears as though the state controller's office is not treating us very kindly this time around and something seriously needs to be done in order to maintain a good credit rating. As with a good credit rating is the ability to receive grants. At the present time the city of Amsterdam does not have a good credit rating which in turn makes things such as borrowing very difficult. Not that I would like to see our city borrow, but if you don't know how much money exists, where it's coming from and where it's going, what are the options? Folks, I'm not a professional numbers guy and not sure how to reach the point of being a financially stable city. But I do know that if you bet with a bookie and don't pay up there are consequences followed by a high interest rate.
I can only think of one idiom that best fits the description of our city finances, which is "robbing Peter to pay Paul." Some may refer to it differently such as "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul," but since its taxpayer money let's go with the first version. I guess a city government that likes to spend without knowing what they really have will always use the "Peter Paul Principle" as a means of escape. These are scary times, folks, where money or resources set aside for one purpose are used for a different one without ever knowing how it got there. But how much precious time will it take before Peter gets caught passing the buck to Paul. If the borrowing continues, eventually Paul will end up in a pickle with Peter.
Let's take a closer look at what I call the "Peter Paul Principle." I would like to present to you an example of this principle. Here we have Peter Piper who prides himself in a pickle farm pondering the idea of passing on some of his pickle profits to Paul. Peter Piper's pickle farm is packed with pecks of pickles and performs well making piles of precious cash. Paul, on the other hand, is showing a poor performance in his paper hanging portrait painting business producing a poor product of paintings. Paul is trying to push his product of paintings through promotions. However, it's at this point where Paul persists on pushing his idea by borrowing from Peter who is promising to make a profit while paying back the principal. Suddenly, Peter Piper with his pickle farm realizes Paul's promise of payback is turning into a prolonged period of procrastination. Peter Piper's pecks of pickles are now diminishing while waiting for Paul's payback from his paper hanging portrait painting business.
Peter Piper begins to press Paul on his payback but Paul persists his paper hanging portrait painting product is performing well and promises to pay back soon. Peter Piper now becomes peeved with Paul's persistence of promising to pay him back from his paper hanging portrait painting business. As time passes Paul's paper hanging portrait painting business shows no profit while Peter Piper's patience and perception of Paul's business changes. Peter Piper now perplexed and in a pickle about Paul's paper hanging portrait painting business decides to present pertinent paperwork to a professional auditor named Perry. As Peter Piper pries and persists auditor Perry for answers Paul decides to secretly pack his profits from his paper hanging portrait painting business in a protected place. Suddenly Perry the professional auditor discovers Paul's profits from his paper hanging portrait through a pile of past paperwork from Paul's paper hanging portrait painting business. It was through Perry the professional auditor that Paul's paper hanging portrait painting business was performing a past practice of presenting non-existent profits to Peter Piper. Thanks to Perry the professional auditor that Paul's paper hanging portrait painting business was caught with his hand in the pickle jar. In the end, New York state had to step in, sending Paul's paperhanging portrait painting business packing in a padlocked paddy wagon never to return.
So folks, did we learn anything from this tongue twisting Peter, Paul and Perry lesson? Are you confused? Does it sort of remind you of our city budget process? Certainly we all know what it is to have a credit card these days. They are easy to get, easy to use, but not easy to pay off. The city of Amsterdam has now reached that point of having a bad credit rating.
As one prominent pickle-headed politician once said, "This is not your kitchen checkbook." Maybe it's time for our passive pickle-headed political representatives to get their heads out of the pickle jar when passing a budget. Just maybe we will not have to rob from Peter to pay Paul.
Until next time -- hold that thought.
MIKE LAZAROU is an Amsterdam native and a regular columnist.
You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.