Pro-Charter Campaign: There is the truth, There is hyperbole, and Then There Is…

The website promoting charter change has a professionally produced video that makes a variety of claims regarding the charter’s benefits. As with many of the materials produced by this group, the claims made in this video exaggerated to the point of being untrue.

This particular video focuses on supporting their claim that charter change will save the city money. As usual, though, the pro-charter people do not simply assert that their form of government will save money which may or may not be the case in the long run. Instead they produce a figure of $100,000.00 that will be saved “right off the bat.” A hundred thousand dollars is a conveniently large number to make a point (in other parts of their materials they seem to be claiming the savings will be $300,000), but I am not sure what it means to produce a $100,000.00 savings “right off the bat.” Even if their charter produces savings, it would seem reasonable to assume that it would require some time to achieve this. This kind of subtlety is lost in our age of excess and inflated promises. This is the kind of shameless sloganeering more suited to late night advertising for cancer cures.

In another part of this video they suggest the city is currently spending millions of dollars on lifetime health insurance for Commissioners.

Now it is true that the city has a policy that provides health insurance for life for members of the Council who serve for ten years or more. It is also true that health insurance is expensive. Currently the annual cost for health insurance for the city is roughly $22,000.00 for a family, $12,000.00 for a couple, and $6,000.00 for a single person.

But in addition to serving ten years, the official must be 55 years old before he/she can begin benefitting.

There are no former Commissioners or Mayors receiving this benefit. As far as I can tell, only three people have ever benefitted from this and all are long dead.

It is also reasonable to believe that persons passing the age of 55 will have few children of an age to be eligible for family coverage. The number of such dependents, if any, can be expected to dwindle over time. In general, those fortunate enough to become eligible for the insurance would receive either $12,000.00 per year (couple) or $6,000.00 per year (single).

It is also possible that when the beneficiary becomes eligible to receive Medicare that the cost to the city would be further reduced.

Now people may indeed feel that even this is too much.

The problem is that this misleading banner (see below) suggests to the public that we are currently bleeding money. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!!!! The fact is that we are not paying this benefit to anyone currently.

Even over time, if you run the numbers you cannot get anywhere near a million dollars let alone millions. For example, a couple receiving $12,000.00 a year in health benefits from the age of 55 to 85 would theoretically cost the city $360,000.00. Now I am not suggesting that that is not a lot of money and I am not arguing over whether it is merited. What is undeniable is that it does not add up to millions.

The thing is that “MILLIONS” has the same appeal as $100,000.00. It is a number grabbed cynically by the advocates for charter reform meant to excite the public rather than inform.

Here is another clam they make:

The proponents of charter change declined to interview the deputies when they crafted the first version of this charter in 2017. They interviewed many other employees of the city, but never the deputies. They made it clear in the earlier campaign that they viewed these deputy positions as simply patronage jobs. Their recent financial analysis supports this narrative as the analysis gets most of its purported savings by eliminating the deputies and assumes that the city manager will be able to absorb their work load as well as the work of the four Commissioners

It may be possible that there is duplication of work with the deputies but describing the process of eliminating them all and expecting the proposed city manager to take on all their duties as “streamlining “is again a case of hyperbole.

It’s as though they don’t really believe in the benefits of their charter and have to gin them up to convince the public to vote for this change.

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