On Friday September 27th, the City Council received the preliminary drawings for proposed Gateway Markers for the City of Johns Creek. The City Council was getting an early peak for the drawing and voting was to start this week from the residents. In less than 91 minutes from receiving the drawings forwarded by the Mayor, Council Members began to react.
Last April I wrote about how this effort was a complete waste of taxpayer monies. I also wrote the following(was I wrong?):
A government cannot define us. An artist will not define us. Gateway Markers will not define us. We do not need outsiders to come in and tell us who we are. Government can identify us but it will never define us. The moment we let government define us is the moment we have lost who we are. We should be defining government instead.
Is this a good use of taxpayer dollars? I’ll let you decide for yourself.
The Council reacted negatively and these drawings were withdrawn from Public View. While they were supposed to be presented and voting begin on September 30,2019, it appears that changes will now be made before presenting to the public for consideration.
How much this will cost or what the revisions are remains to be seen.
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.