, Gloucester, MA

September 26, 2013

Letter: Looking more closely at mayor's 'leadership'

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Campaign season has started, and, to quote our president, “it must be silly season.”

This is not a letter endorsing a candidate, but facts have to be put forth, and it seems Mayor Kirk is running on a record that seems mystifying.

Saying the mayor inspired citizens to run with projects, or the hiring personnel is because of her leadership is a decision for voters. However, saying she got us out of a financial hole is, I believe, misleading and/or ignorant.

The mayor has taken credit for her chief financial officer cleaning up the books, doing the accounting of the city, and holding taxpayers accountable for their liabilities. Yes, it is something past administrations got away with, either because of negligence or clear incompetence, but why does someone deserve credit for just doing their job?

What the mayor never talks about is how she uses the taxpayer to fund her never-ending dreams such as a new elementary school, I-4, C-2, HarborWalk, and windmills to name a few. She never considers the plight of the taxpayer.

There seems to be no recognition of the recession in the private sector, which provides all government spending. Half of the population have seen their incomes decline by 8 percent in the last 5 years. Seniors living on fixed incomes and small savings in federal bonds or CDs, have seen diminished income because of low interest rates.

Increases in taxes, fees, medical insurance, water and sewer etc, leaves disposable income non-existent in many homes, and youth unemployment is over 16 percent. Does the mayor understand the impact this is having on the families of Gloucester?

The mayor has not brought in new industry to create new, high paying jobs, and diversify the tax base. Why not? She gives lip service as does her administration, but she does she understand the arbitrary nature of how property taxes are assessed. Why are some property taxes up over 25 percent over the last 3 years, and some not all?

Mayor Kirk has sat on the School Committee since 2002. The School Committee and Superintendent can blame the socioeconomic plight of some or the majority of students, but for how many years?

The school population is down 25 percent, yet how does the school budget go up 5 percent? Over a five-year period, the cost per student is up 40 percent, just in the operating budget. By keeping costs flat per student, the mayor would have created $31 million of “free cash” over the last five years!

The increased budget has produced meager educational results; the Gloucester Schools according to a new benchmark are now average. The $31 million should have been reallocated to alleviate the taxpayers’ burden, rather than school spending.

Instead of the unions worrying about their current pay, they should be worried if they will get a retirement. The mayor has increased salaries without regard to the unfunded liabilities.

They have been growing under her “leadership,” and there is no public plan for a solution. The taxpayer, homeowner and pensioner need to know the plan. Experts estimate Gloucester has to put an additional $10 million per year (at zero interest rates) for 30 years, toward the unfunded liabilities — and that is only if the investment returns are reasonably good.

A leader takes innovative steps to make government more efficient, which doesn’t mean incremental spending, but reform, through regionalization and privatization.

Finally, if the mayor had regard for the taxpayer, she would make a small gesture, give up her taxpayer-funded car, and demand all other city workers do the same, except the police. She would also forgo her increase in salary, if re-elected.

Leadership is demonstrated by action, not just because someone says so!