Gateway Markers, The CVB, Volunteers and Tax Payers: What a Waste of Money

Everything that is wrong with Government can be seen in this Process

One has to look no further than the debate on Gateway Markers and the desire of some Council Members to give the “volunteers” what they want when it comes to spending taxpayer monies to understand what is wrong with government.

“They gave it great consideration and they came back with the same recommendation and added further data to it, so to me it’s supporting the people we ask to work on a volunteer basis for the city.” -Council Member Steve Broadbent

What about the actual taxpayers Council Member Broadbent? The ones that are forced to work for government? Have you considered what it takes to actually earn the monies you are suggesting being spent on “Gateway Markers”?

A total of $508,900 was collected in fiscal year 2018 by the Hotel/Motel tax. Council Members forget that this money had to be earned before it could be collected and then spent by volunteers on frivolous endeavors through the Convention Visitors Bureau(CVB).

IT IS NOT FREE MONEY

At 7% that represents revenues of 7.27 million dollars in hotel/motel sales to collect.

If you divide the $508,900 by an average hourly wage of $25 per hour, that equals 20,356 hours of labor. This is not volunteer labor, but effectively forced labor to support these endeavors such as painted pedestrian tunnels(A cultural attraction according to the CVB), gateway markers and kiosks in hotels that effectively do the same thing as Yelp and Google(only worse-you cannot carry it with you).

While the entire amount proposed to be spent on Gateway Markers is much less, the issue is the same.

Assume we spent $50,000 on Gateway Markers, that would represent 2,000 hours of labor at a minimum. Let’s weigh that against the time of “volunteers” in making these decisions.

Certainly the bar should be much higher on how this money should be spent other than “volunteers worked hard.” Certainly the money should be spent in a way that shows a real return on the investment by the taxpayers that paid it, even more so than the volunteers that offered to spend it?

If Council Member Broadbent and others feel that being a volunteer qualifies you to spend taxpayer money(and this is what we are talking about), then I would like to volunteer to decide how to spend some of the budget surpluses generated by this City each and every year.

And I would bring you a list of proposals AND return on investments that are specific and quantifiable, not pie in the sky “we should do it because some marketing people said so”.

What should concern you the tax payer is that if they are this frivolous with tax payer dollars on this issue what keeps them from being frivolous with spending on other issues?

The answer is they spend frivolously very often, rarely demanding a real return on investment for taxpayers(have you seen the lights along Kimball Bridge). Instead, it’s about optics. It’s about feeling good. It’s not about real returns.

Council Member Zaprowski wants to pursue the Gateway Markers now. He seeks it so much that he is willing to push aside a greenway along the river which would benefit all residents. Would residents benefit from Gateway Markers? Of course not. A greenway? Absolutely.

Just look at the activity in Roswell along the river or in Sandy Springs along the river. Is there any question that it attracts people and provides health benefits to boot? How can someone even question which would be best for Johns Creek in the long term?

The residents of Johns Creek have given this Council what it sought in past elections: A Parks Bond and a TSPLOST Tax. More and more money. Before you ever do this again, you need to ask yourself if you can trust them with millions if they are willing to waste thousands.

Residents have made it clear we want to get traffic moving. Yet we have spent more time on this issue and seen more passion from Broadbent and Zaprowski on Gateway Markers than we have seen on getting traffic moving. It took months and months to get the traffic signals back on the agenda. And somehow the CVB and Gateway Markers are so important, this Council seems to have to address the issues again and again until the CVB gets what they want. Is this Council here just to give the CVB what they want?

I challenge this Council to demand a real return on investment on these tax dollars. Do not simply go along to appease the CVB. If that was what was intended, then the CVB would NOT need Council approval to spend these funds.

I ask each of you the following questions:

  • How much do you expect business to be boosted by a Gateway Marker in Johns Creek?
  • How are you going to measure this return on investment?
  • Which of you has chosen to do business in a city because of a Gateway Marker?
  • Which of you does not know when you enter or leave the City of Johns Creek?

Isn’t it time we quit spending money just because we have it? And since we cannot really spend it on something worthwhile, we will just spend it just to spend it.

I’ll be blunt. The hotel motel tax should be eliminated. The CVB should be disbanded. This City Council needs to work on the REAL Issues.

We do not need outsiders to come in and define us. We do not need Gateway Markers to “reflect” who we are.

We know who we are. Unfortunately, this City Council seems hellbent on redefining who we are. Maybe it’s this City Council does not like who we are. Or maybe this Council does not know who we are. They certainly seem out of sync with the majority within Johns Creek.

More importantly, they seem unwilling to say NO to bad ideas.

If we are going to put up a Gateway Marker, I’d suggest Dollars flowing into a paper shredder and pennies coming out of the bottom.

Wasting taxpayer money is no way to run a City. And rewarding “volunteers” for bad decisions should never happen.

Can Gwinnett County Save MARTA?

Gwinnett County has the opportunity to join MARTA with the promise that the majority of tax dollars will be spent in Gwinnett. But is it too late to save MARTA?

MARTA ridership was below forecast for all of 2018 for buses and rail passengers. Will forecasting be any better with the addition of Gwinnett County?

The 3% Solution

So far MARTA is a 3% solution to the Metro Atlanta Urban population. If you assume that each MARTA patron takes a trip to and from their destinations, only 3% of the population uses MARTA on a daily basis.

That begs the question: How much more shall the 97% continue to vote and support the 3% solution?

MARTA has evolved into a two purpose system. The first is to get lower cost workers to employment areas.

The second is to transport those with private vehicles to both sporting events and the airport, where the hassles of drive times and parking fees can be avoided.

Will Gwinnett County voters be willing to commit large sums of money going forward forever for these purposes?

Or will they be wise enough to realize that MARTA just isn’t SMARTA?

For those that are supporting this push for MARTA, I have just one question:

Outside of the airport and sporting events, will you be using MARTA for your daily trips around your town, or are you hoping that your neighbor will be doing so?

That’s what I thought.

https://www.itsmarta.com/KPIRidership.aspx

“Haters” In Johns Creek

There is a term that has been used by both elected officials and their supporters over the last few years to describe individuals such as myself: “Haters”.

The term is used as a bullying tactic meant to silence those who have an opinion about Johns Creek’s government, what they are doing, what they accept in performance from City Staff, and where they are attempting to take a City that was a runaway success even before the City Council held it’s first meeting.

We know the term “Haters” is being used at City Council Meetings and behind the scenes between the Council Members (including the Mayor) in an effort to intimidate and push dissenting Council Members to go along with the grand schemes those on the Council have pursued at the expense of the majority of the Public for the benefit of the few.

In retrospect, “Haters” may be the best word that could have been chosen by those that are trying to silence us.

We do hate.

We have government overreach.

We hate wasteful spending.

We hate being told our traffic issues are because of neighboring communities instead of just doing the hard work and eliminating our bottlenecks.

We hate government contracts that are renewed despite less than stellar work performed for the residents of Johns Creek.

We hate the push for Johns Creek to be like every other City.

We hate the continued push for higher and higher densities.

We hate being lied to about how awesome the traffic lights were when in fact the lights were not even close to what they were advertised.

We hate the political games played to push agendas with statements that are blatantly false and misleading.

We hate seeing Council Members shut down when trying to discuss the issues on behalf of all residents.

Nearly every Public Comment is followed up with a “Thank you for your comment” from the Mayor. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Anything that questions, challenges or otherwise casts doubts on the direction of this City and the objectives of the current majority on Council is derided and dismissed. Items that are factually correct are portrayed as inaccurate. Even if you were to use the City’s own audited reports to make a point, it is likely you will be told that you are wrong if the point is not what the majority wants.

What should this City Council do with the “Haters”? It should embrace them. Time and again they have pointed out issues with the direction of the City that the majority of the residents simply do not seek If in pursuing their agendas, they cannot answer the questions or objections with honest answers, and instead must resort to chastising and bullying the “Haters”, then maybe the agenda is just not that good.

We do not need to run this City by personal agendas and legacy building. Instead this City needs to be run based on the Charter and what it says we are supposed to be doing as a City.

Until it does, we will continue to bring up as issues and concerns what we see happening. We will continue to challenge the decisions this City is making as it impacts all of us.

If you want to see Johns Creek become just an average City, just sit back, do nothing and hate those labeled “Haters”.

But if you want a truly exceptional City, listen to what the “Haters” are saying. See if there is truth in it.

It’s interesting that I and the others who have been labeled “Haters” are discussed in whispers and behind closed doors. We take our issues directly to the City Council.

And we will continue to do so.

2019: Recessionary Forces Cannot Be Halted

Economic Forces Affect Political Outcomes

If you look inside the economy, you need to find more than an empty box.

The US economy and how it functions is truly a mystery to most people. For the most part it operates on faith. For politicians, it is generally taken as a granted. When a recession strikes, no one knows what to do.

The outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election hangs in the balance, and Trump has less than 6 quarters to turn things around in a major way, or Trump will become the first one-term President since G.W. Bush.

The data is very clear. It extends all the way back to the mid 70’s, and it is a nearly perfect indicator for POTUS election results. I have written about it in the past. It has not changed. The rules are rather simple.

Corporate Profits Are Mediocre

If corporate profits as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis is growing by more than 6%(more or less) year over year, then the party in the White House will maintain control of the White House. The ONLY exception to this rule since 1972 is Gerald Ford, who was tossed out of office because of the overwhelming desire for any new direction after Nixon’s resignation.

With that in mind, those that hold the office of POTUS really need focus on a few major things, and one of the most major things is the real health of the underlying economy.

Why corporate profits? It’s simple. Businesses are in business to grow profit. No one should run a business just to maintain the status quo. But watching the major financial networks, it becomes clear most are clueless to this rather simple truth.

But the networks seem to focus on two numbers that mask the real performance. The first is the top line, or sales. The second is the earnings per share. Both of these numbers are not worth 1/2 of what weighting analysts have placed upon them. Why?

Sales can rise 30% per year. But if you are not bringing any more profit per sale to the bottom line you are just working hard for the same result.

Earnings Per Share are Misleading

Earnings per share can make a company with less profit look like they are doing better than they really are. If a company’s earnings fall 3% but they buy back 4% of their shares, then EPS will rise. And this false signal seems to be embraced by analysts at every turn.

So why are we headed into a recession? The costs of doing business are rising, and rising fast, and there is nothing that will put the brakes on those pressures.

Back in 2008, the same two factors that accelerated the market collapse are happening once again. What are those two factors? Interest rates rising and minimum wages rising.

There has never been more debt being held by Americans in our history. And the increases in rates, while they appear small, relatively speaking, are really huge in their outcomes. Rates rising from 2 to 2.5% for instance, results in a whopping 25% increase in your interest costs. That is not insignificant.

Minimum Wages are Rising

Minimum wages increases, however, are going to push the economy over the edge. These increases are not happening because businesses have chosen to pay employees more because A) they are more productive and B) it is what is needed to get employees on the job. Rather it is the worst of reasons: despite the economic realities, government mandates it.

Minimum wage is increasing in 21 states in 2019. And by much more than what the rate of increase was back in 2008.

https://www.businessinsider.com/minimum-wage-2019-state-map-2018-12

Politicians never seem to grasp the affect of these mandatory wage increases on businesses. And the businesses they most affect are the ones with some of the lowest profit margins in our economy: Restaurants and retail sales are going to have to raise their prices to maintain their profit margins, despite the workers only producing as much as they did last year.

That of course, will inject just a bit more inflationary pressure into our economic system, which will put even more pressure on the Federal Reserve Bank to raise rates even higher.

We know that the the odds of states and cities reversing course and lowering the minimum wage is near zero. As for the Federal Reserve, who knows what they will do? They do not even know what they are doing today.

If Trump (and most of the Republicans) want to maintain the White House in 2020, they better start acting now to lower the costs of doing business in the United States. They will need to see this recession end quickly, which means it needs to be officially acknowledged sooner rather than later.

The summer of 2019 needs to be the low part for the economy. The rate of Federal Debt growth must be slowed dramatically. Home grown energy needs to be deregulated. The constant increase in local sales taxes fuel taxes and property taxes need to be reversed just to have a shot at this objective.

Otherwise, this recession is going to be far worse than 2008. And no business is actually prepared for that.

And I’d wager good money that no state or local governments are either.

Johns Creek: At a Crossroads (Or Being Pushed Towards A Different Outcome)

The semantics are similar, and people can argue which is which.  But make no mistake about it, Johns Creek has been pushed for the last ten years towards change.

The affects of this change are readily apparent in our annual CAFR reports.  Our per capita income is declining.  Our density(number of people) per square acre is rising.

It seems that there are those among us that believe we just need more population to make all of the things we have in Johns Creek work.  More residents justify the need for more services.  More residents justify the need for Bus Rapid Transit.  And you need to have a place for all of these residents to live, and while mostly built out, the only wan to do this is to increase the density of our housing.

The recent “first draft” of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan was revealing.  While the CAC and the City have more or less dismissed this draft, it was they that brought it to us. Continue reading

Operation: Silence The Opposition

What happens when you challenge the leadership in your community?  What happens if you do not accept the notion that the best choices were made, that the best outcomes were achieved?  What if you challenge the ideas that the future of your community needs to be drastically different from the community that you have chosen to call home?

In Johns Creek, you are given labels.  You are called a hater.  You are labeled as the wrong type of person to hang around.  Your elected officials tell people that you are the wrong types of people to associate with.  Those crying in the public arena about bullies are actually the bullies of Johns Creek, using their efforts in an attempt to silence the opposition. Continue reading

Fats Domino: New Orleans Legend

Fats Domino passed away this week.  Being born in New Orleans meant you were aware of music and musicians at an early age.  I was no exception.

Domino was a fixture in New Orleans, where he had soaked up the influences of the musical melting pot and, even after gaining fame, stayed in his old neighborhood where he would sometimes sleep outside in a hammock.

I can still remember the day in the 1960’s, when my parents, who loved to take long rides, drove us past the home of Fats Domino.  It was not the first time, but it was the time that I remember that Fats Domino was sitting outside on the porch.

“Wave to him” one of my parents said.  And I did.

Fats Domino waved back, creating a memory I can see to this day.as if it were yesterday.

Rest in Peace, Fats.  We are gonna miss your presence.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2017/10/25/rock-n-roll-pioneer-fats-domino-dead-89/

Why We Are Frustrated With Traffic (In 90 Seconds)

In less than 90 seconds,  anyone should be able to clearly understand why we are frustrated with traffic and why we think that there are improvements that can be made without paving six lanes the entire length of 141.

While I took this video in Peachtree Corners, it was only because I saw it as an example of what ails us in Johns Creek.  We all experience the same thing on a frequent basis in Johns Creek.  It just happened to be convenient for me to film at this location.  Frustrated with the additional 10 minutes it took to get to Earth Faire at 12:30 p.m., I made it a point to stop and record it.

The questions I keep asking is why.  What does it take to resolve these sorts of issues with our traffic lights?

The video was taken Friday, March 10th 2017, just before 1:00 pm.  I am facing north on 141 on the eastern side of the intersection.

Be sure to watch to the very end where you will see as I zoom just how far the backup extends.

US Economic Engine Continues Its Steady Decline

It’s been a long time since we had robust economic growth.  Most of those alive today cannot really recall a boom time.

Compounded Annual rate of job growth since:

1960:  1.75%

1970:  1.53%

1980:  1.28%

1990:  1.05%

2000:  0.56%

Anyone see a “long term” trend here besides me?

Slowly but surely this economy creates lower and lower job growth.  There are those, like me, who have relentlessly stated that taxes, regulations, and other restrictions are having a negative effect on the US economy.

And I have on more than one occasion demonstrated that profit growth in the US has also been on a steady decline.

With less profits and lower job growth, should we really be surprised that the overall health of the US consumer has been on a steady decline?

Were it not for liberal monetary lending, where American consumers are borrowing to sustain their standard of living, the evidence would be quite clear.

So, how long can this last and how much more debt can the American consumer get their hands on before we see some serious repercussions?

In The End, It Was About The Economy Again

Once again, we faced a National Election for President of The United States, and once again the outcome was never really in question, was it?

What if you could find one indicator that pointed the way to what would happen in the election for POTUS that could very well sum up how the United States was doing, and therefore indicate what the outcome would be during election years? Continue reading