Monday, March 2, 2009

Mayor McPherson's Extravagance

Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson has announced he wants unpaid members of the city planning board to be given city health benefits. I get city health benefits and they are quite excellent, free to me but if I add anyone to my policy, a partner or children, the monthly cost is nearly $800. The benefits are excellent too, paying for teeth cleanings with discounts of dental work, paying for eye exams and discounts to eye work, and excellent prescription and medical coverage. I feel very fortunate to enjoy the benefits package in country where health insurance is viewed as a privilege and not a right. My wife has a comparable package from the School District, and despite our coverage we remain committed supporters of single payer, or at the very least, coverage for all. Choosing between bankruptcy and death seems way too harsh in what is still the richest country in the world.
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On the other hand I wonder what the Mayor is thinking. The city is working on a plan to cut the budget by ten percent next fiscal year and the Mayor is gaily proposing (in the old fashioned giddy sense) to throw a few more costs on the pyre of job cuts. The only way the city will cut ten percent of it's budget is by cutting positions and it's a prospect that should worry us all. Not the Mayor apparently. His attitude is worrying to me as the city is also contemplating rebuilding city hall which was flooded and rendered an unworkable moldy heap by Hurricane Wilma is far distant 2005. Since then the city has done nothing about city hall except talk, sporadically about what to do.
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Naturally at a time of fiscal restrictions the talk is of building an entire new city hall at a modest estimated cost of $25 million dollars, half the city budget. Proposals to adopt an already existing building, the county's Gato Building has been mentioned, does not seem to fit with the city commission's grandiose vision. So the debate goes on about how much money can be spent on this necessary change.
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The Mayor's quixotic support for a water park at Truman Waterfront appears to have gone down the plug hole alongside the evaporation of the national economy, but he has proposed rounding up utility bills in the city and giving the extra cents to support his favorite Christian charities in the city. That tax plan isn't going over so well in multi-cultural Key West, and one has to wonder what sort of fiscal future McPherson is laying out for himself and his brood in light of his imminent foreclosure eviction. Dollars and cents are not the Mayor's strong point.
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Mayor McPherson used to live near Mile Marker Ten in the county and when he decided to run for the ten thousand dollar a year position he bought a home in the city. His real estate broker earnings plummeted and his wife's salary as a school Vice Principal was not enough to keep them above water so they now face foreclosure. Mayor McPherson went along with the new city manager's plan last year to replace one outgoing assistant with two new assistant city manager's each earning over $100,000. The manager announced with a straight face that the change was to "increase efficiency."
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Overtime in the city has been all but eliminated, the budget must shrink, and I have been warning my colleagues to prepare for givebacks- including what seems likely to me, which would be a small fee each month for our health insurance. Which suddenly seems like it would be a bizarre contractual request from a city that even momentarily entertains the notion of offering anyone remotely connected to the City of Key West the privilege of free health benefits. I don't think the Mayor, despite his own personal problems, understands the depth of feeling prevalent as we slide into a Depression. Bubba favors are not a good idea.

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