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Pay now or pay later? Reconciling Carl DeMaio to himself

April 23, 2009 - 12:08 pm

City Councilmember Carl DeMaio has built his political career around fiscal responsibility. He wants balanced budgets, and he wants to pay for things that need paying for. But there are occasional questions about philosophical consistency.

On Tuesday, DeMaio posted to his Facebook page strong opposition to the possibility that the city change its pension payment rules to save money, because it would cost more in the future:

Carl DeMaio is opposed to any effort to manipulate the calculation of city pension payments. Taxpayers will pay more tomorrow if we are not responsible today.

Yesterday, DeMaio, again on his Facebook page, expressed the following opinion on the prospect of building a new City Hall:

Carl DeMaio As my office argued all summer, the city would benefit from the “Hold Steady” proposal. Time to shelve this project and move on.

He’s referring to the idea that the city could save money in the short term by not building a new City Hall, though two large accounting firms – Ernst & Young and Jones Lang LaSalle – agree that after 15 years, the city starts to save huge amounts of money with the redevelopment options. On the 50-year time horizon, the city would save $232 million in today’s dollars.

In both cases the question is whether to save money now and pay more later, or sacrifice now to save money later. DeMaio’s spokesperson, Erica Mendelson, responded to the apparent contradiction in an e-mail:

“Not only does building a new City Hall not make financial sense but it is the wrong priority at this time. Ask any taxpayer to look at the roads in their own neighborhood and they get it,” she wrote. “Councilmember DeMaio understands that manipulating the pension payment is what got the city into the pension mess and feels strongly that the city must allocate its existing resources toward addressing the current liabilities before increasing expenses. “

4 Comments leave one →
  1. tom cody permalink
    April 23, 2009 - 4:42 pm 4:42 pm

    Its Tom from Gerding Edlen. I want to clarify something that seems to be getting lost in the hedlines… The new JLL numbers re-verify that our proposal, as submitted, saves the City money over the short term as well as the long term. In fact, our proposal as designed saves the City $34m over the first 10 years as compared to the “Hold Steady” scenario. Which, by the way, has been noted on page 56 of the Ernst & Young report as a bad use of money, not a good plan for a city, and having significant (and unquantified) risk. The City has used good sense and run sensitivity scenarios- if we do not buy the land but rather lease it; if we only build the first phase, etc. These alternatives, that do have merit, show that even when engineering a more conservative approached to what we have proposed the redevelopment saves taxpayers major dollars beginning in year 15 and growing from there.

  2. April 25, 2009 - 11:24 am 11:24 am

    Carl DeMaio came out against the new Civic Center early without any of the real facts. He’s now simply playing the politician’s role of finding (or fabricating ) reasons to hold fast to his un-informed early stance. Clearly he’s not going to wake up to reality, but hopefully the rest of the City Council will act reasonably and move this on to the next step which is the ENA.

  3. J Lamb permalink
    April 25, 2009 - 3:32 pm 3:32 pm

    It should be noted that Mark Steele is simply playing his typical role as “interested party” — the former planning commissioner’s architectural firm is a partner in the project and figures to benefit financially. At least Tom Cody had the courtesy to identify his link to the project.

  4. Justin permalink
    April 29, 2009 - 6:07 am 6:07 am

    Mark Steele is dead wrong. DeMaio challenged the financial forecasts of the new City Hall from the get-go and was CORRECT. Dirty developers will do anything to make a buck at the taxpayers’ expense. Sad! Thanks goodness DeMaio is questioning the financial representations — and timing — of this poorly conceived project.

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