Monday, March 4, 2019

How Council Member Steve Solomon Lied During the January 9th Council Meeting

Item 3 on the agenda of the January 9th council meeting was “Establishing a Budget and Finance Commission and establishing the tasking and operations of said commission.”

The original Finance and Bond Commission was dissolved in 2010 during the Hiremath reign. Mayor Winfield wanted to bring it back to allow for more community involvement. He explained, “I have a strong belief in our boards and commissions and the important function they have in our community.”

Council Member Solomon paints himself into a corner
Council Member Steve Solomon tried to paint himself in a positive light, but ended up painting himself into a corner during the July 9th meeting. During the discussions, he claimed that he had nothing to do with abolishing the original Finance and Bond Commission in 2010.

Solomon claimed at the meeting: "…in the past, there was kind of a failure of this prior committee because when I first came on council in 2010, we discovered that the budget that was approved by the prior council, through whatever this bond or finance committee was, had a $3M deficit which they never bothered to point out or emphasize and we had to deal with it. After that committee was dissolved, and I wasn’t involved in the dissolution, what happened was that for the last 7 years, the town has run a surplus in the budget so I just want to make it clear that we do not have a budget problem."

Does he think that LOVE doesn’t have fact-checkers?

There are multiple problems with Solomon’s claims
  • Solomon claims that a previous deficit was the fault of the prior Finance and Bond Commission. That’s nonsense. Staff has the final call on what is presented to the council. How many times did we hear from the Hiremath council that they didn’t need to get into the weeds because “we have staff and staff are the experts.” We found it curious that Finance Director, Stacey Lemos, said nothing when Solomon blamed the supposed “deficit” on the former commission members.

  • There was never a deficit. The Hiremath Council did not inherit a $3 million deficit as Solomon claimed. First of all, it is against State law to have a deficient budget. The Council was told by the Town Manager (Jerene Watson at that time) that they needed to increase revenues or the staff was going to suffer layoffs and/or 4 day weeks. The Hiremath Council responded by doubling the Utility Tax from 2% to 4%.
The 2011-2012 tentative, proposed budget showed a $3.1 million difference between requested spending and forecasted revenues. That’s not a deficit. A deficit only occurs when actual spending exceeds actual revenues. That never happened. This is the $3 million to which Councilmember Solomon refers. This was the Majority-4's budget. They did not inherit it from any previous council.
  • Solomon maintains that he wasn't involved in the Board’s dissolution, yet he was one of seven council members who voted unanimously to dissolve that commission.
Here’s the timeline:

June 2, 2010
Mayor Hiremath and his Majority-4 council took the oath of office. 
June 16, 2010
Steve Solomon was appointed to fill a vacancy left when Salette Latas resigned two months earlier. Solomon’s term was effective until June 6, 2012. (The Finance and Bond Commission was still active when Solomon took office.) 
December 1, 2010
The vote to dissolve the former Finance and Bond Commission took place during this council meeting. Solomon was on council and was present that night. 
Item 7A on the agenda was a “Discussion and possible action regarding the Finance and Bond Commission.” The vote was 7-0 to dissolve the commission. There was no discussion prior to the vote. Solomon did not argue against dissolving this commission and he voted to dissolve it. 
Or in Solomon’s words, “I wasn’t involved in the dissolution.”
These are more examples of why you should not trust anything that Councilmember Steve Solomon asserts. He appears to just make it up as he goes along, saying whatever paints him (or the prior Majority-4) in a positive light.

Devils, rakes, and shovels…oh my!
But wait, there’s more! During his arguments, Solomon also made the following comments:

"Now more citizen input is always nice but the devil’s in the details. So my question is…what is this group of people going to do? Are they going to go through the budget and say, ‘We’re spending too much money on parks and not enough money on planning and zoning.’ Or are they going to say, ‘Wait a minute, Parks and Rec…there’s a line item, we need 10 shovels…we want 5 rakes. Is the committee going to say, ‘No, I think rakes are better than shovels. We should buy 10 rakes and 5 shovels.'"(Well, if anyone knows about shoveling stuff, it’s Steve Solomon.)

He continued: "This is not unreasonable because this is what happens when you put a group together. So we need to be clear on what do we expect from them. Do we expect them to tell us that Parks and Rec has the wrong number of rakes and shovels? Do we expect them to tell us that the Police are getting too much money and Parks and Rec is getting too little money? Do we expect them to tell us that…we should cut out golf?...Are they going to slow the process up?...What role are these citizens going to have and are they going to have the background to contribute positively to it, which would be wonderful. We can’t just grab a group of five people and throw them into this and say, ‘Here’s the budget. Give us recommendations.’"

If Solomon had read the Council packet including the attachments, he would have known exactly what the responsibilities of the Finance Commission would be. The functions of the Commission were spelled out clearly. One needs to read the Resolution you are voting on before you vote. It appears that Solomon was too lazy to do his job and instead relied on the verbal summary from staff.

For the record, the Town Council isn’t going to just “grab a group of five people and throw them into this” and it was insulting to Mayor Winfield for Councilmember Solomon to even suggest this absurd possibility.

Supporting town documents showing that Councilmember Solomon voted to dissolve the former Finance and Bond Commission

Roll Call for 12/1/10 meeting showing that Solomon was present
Motion Carried 7-0