Johns Creek City Council and Post 4

Friends,
Adam Thomas seems to find it necessary to suggest things about Chris Coughlin that simply do not hold up under scrutiny.  Even though the “tax promise” mentioned was made during a campaign that was NOT for the seat Chris currently holds, he still has not broken that tax promise.

The above states that Chris Coughlin pushed for a millage rate of 4.3. That was lower than the millage rate in the motion that was being debated. That would have been a tax cut.


How often does one see a incumbent chastised for offering an amendment to lower tax rates and then have that used against him?  This could be a first.  But it gets better.  


Chris never voted for a millage rate over 4 to be implemented in Johns Creek.  He did support an amendment to the motion to lower the rate from the roll back rate.  But if that passed, that did not mean that Chris would have then voted to set the millage rate at that level.  


His flyer is deceptive at the very least.  Council Members should offer amendments to motions to drive the conversation, even if ultimately they will not support it.  That is how you hear the debate on the principles and positions. 

 
It’s a shame he has to try and paint a picture that suggests something that is simply not true about Coughlin. 

 
So, are the statements made on Mr. Thomas’ flyer campaign flyer promises he will live up to?


Do you really think Thomas will have a budget where every expenditure will be justified?   Prior to implementation of this budget?  Has he actually watched the budget process?


Unless he redefines what audit means, the answer would be no.  

Let’s combine that with his argument that critical projects have been delayed and defunded.  We know that many of these projects have shown little to no value to Johns Creek. 

But they were “promised”  with TSPLOST.  Should not an elected official challenge wasteful spending on behalf of the residents?  Absolutely.


And to answer his question?


Yes Chris Coughlin represents me. And I will be voting for him because he has represented me, challenged bad ideas pushed by the majority, improved our traffic flow on 141, and worked on many other issues to improved our quality of life.

Vaping Crisis? Or Common Sense Crisis?

Nothing gets politicians or wanna be politicians more excited than a new crisis. And fortunately, as we head into the fall election cycle, we have one in Johns Creek.

Vaping is a choice, made by individuals, whom we give the right to drive vehicles that weigh thousands of pounds at high speeds that can kill instantly. We also give those individuals the right to terminate a pregnancy, go swimming, ride bicycles, and choose the foods that they consume.

The scope of this vaping “crisis” pales in comparison to a real crisis. First and foremost, the individuals can manage their own risk by stopping. As a parent, you can help by informing your children of their risks.

In 2017, 2,734 teenagers were killed in traffic accidents. That is 7.5 per day.

In 2019, there have been 26 vaping deaths reported(adults and teenagers). That works out to 0.09 deaths per day.

The death rate for traffic accidents for teens is 83 times higher than the death rate for all vaping deaths over the last twelve months.

One would think if the media and the politicians were interested in saving lives, then focus on that item which could save the most lives. However they never seem able to do that.

It’s about sensationalism and emotionalism.

We do not need sensationalism and emotionalism in elected officials. It generates knee jerk reactions to situations we would not even need to address if the individuals affected just took responsibility for their own actions.

And in this instance, it’s the same individuals we are willing to give a driver’s license to.

Logic needs to rule the day when it comes to public policy making and not emotion.

Gateway Marker Designs Speak For Themselves

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.

In Pursuit of Safety, Are There Any Limits In Johns Creek?

Safety Used To Justify Solutions

Johns Creek has used the “safety” for the pursuit of many solutions in Johns Creek in search of justifications. But should there be a litmus test when using these claims as justification in the implementation of policy changes, decisions and home inspections.

Residents have seen expensive traffic circles implemented at intersections that have functioned for decades as two or four way stops. The reason cited? Safety.

Residents replacing a hot water heater in their homes now need an inspection. Safety again.

The fourth fire station was justified as a safety issue, despite questions and observations that a Fast Response Unit might actually provide better outcomes for residents of Johns Creek.

Traffic intersections where you used to be able to turn left when there was a safe opportunity to do so now prohibit you from making a left turn unless you have a flashing yellow or green arrow. The reason cited? Safety.

Green Dot: U-Turns Allowed Red Dot: No U-Turn

We have U-Turns being eliminated at 141 and State Bridge southbound citing safety, while the other three legs of the intersection all still allow U-Turns. And a crossover just north of that intersection? U-Turns are allowed and despite the safety issue, will continue to be allowed for the benefit of the businesses.

The U-Turn crossover as you head south on 141 to make the U-Turn to head north is clearly more dangerous for drivers, especially young drivers as they leave the school in the afternoons. However, for the benefit of the businesses this is apparently a risk we can tolerate.

Somehow, at 141 and State Bridge, with a traffic light giving the drivers the right of way, the failure to yield the right of way by State Bridge Westbound drivers taking a right, is enough to get that U-Turn eliminated. Does that make sense?

I Can’t Drive 55

Now we have the lanes on 141 being narrowed from 12 feet to 11 feet AND the speed limit being lowered from 55 to 45 all in the name of safety.

This leads me to the following question:

What Can’t The City Of Johns Creek Do For Safety?

That’s not really the question to be honest. We would ask that if our duly elected officials were action the ones with oversight in making these decisions. But they are not. So here is the question we need to ask:

Are There Limits to What A Staff Member Can Do Using Safety As A Justification?

What’s process anyway? The residents here have elected a City Council to represent them. Can the City Council change this decision? If so how?

For starters, I’d demand actual data on 141 with traffic accidents to determine if we are actually implementing a solution solving a problem.

  1. How many rear end collisions on 141 were reported for the last 36 months?
  2. How many annual miles were driven on 141 for the last 36 months?
  3. What is the ratio of rear end collisions to miles driven?
  4. Is this higher or lower than the national average?
  5. Is this higher or lower than the average for surrounding areas?
  6. How many of the rear end collisions on 141 were in areas where the posted speed limit was 55 and how many were in areas where the posted speed limit was 45?
  7. How many additional minutes of travel will be added daily to commuters traveling the 141 corridor in Johns Creek by lowering the speed limit? (if just 4 miles of 55 MPH road is reduced to 45 MPH, each vehicle will have one extra minute of travel or 24% longer)

During non-rush hours, adding 1 minute of travel to 15,000 vehicles daily equals 15,000 minutes of time. That is 250 hours per day lost. That is 1250 hours per week lost. Or 65,000 hours per year.

You can read about the high cost of traffic here: https://ejmoosa.com/the-high-cost-of-traffic-dollar-and-sense/

This decision could cost more than $650,000 per year of lost time for drivers in Johns Creek if your time is worth $10 per hour. I bet your time is worth more.

If this is a $650,000 per year decision, don’t you think your City Council should have had the opportunity to weigh in knowing the actual facts and costs of the decision?

I certainly do.

Johns Creek: Foolin’ Ourselves

The residents of Johns Creek, Georgia have lots of things going for it.  Excellent housing, many of the best schools in the state for kids, and income levels that surpass nearly every other community.

Those positive attributes, however, have led to a flow of tax dollars into the City’s Coffers that is now doing more harm than good.

Since 2006, the year the city formed, the City has amassed $54,348,545 at the end of the fiscal year 2014, according to the City’s Certified Audited Financial Report.  That represents an increase of almost $7,000,000 per year of revenue over expenses.  With a population of around 80,000, that works out to more than $670 per every man, woman and child.

That’s an astonishing amount of money to be held per capita, and it’s growing.  Last evening, the City Council, under the lead of Mayor Mike Bodker voted to maintain the City’s millage rate at it’s current level, despite the property valuations rising sharply over the last year.  More money will be flowing into the City’s coffers again in 2016 coming directly out of the pockets of the residents.  And while it may not seem like a big deal to many outside of Johns Creek(after all, they can afford it), it is creating problems that will soon become more and more apparent as time passes.

[read more=”Read more” less=”Read less”]Incredibly, the Reserve Growth has grown at an annualized rate of 27.35%.  Mayor Bodker and the rest of the City Council have been asked numerous times why are our reserves growing so rapidly?  What will this money be used for?  From listening to dialogue at the City Council’s work session, the perception is that the public just doesn’t understand.   I think we do. I think we also know that other cities, operating under the same general rules as Johns Creek, are not rolling up such large sums of money.

Of course, some of this money is used for day to day operations as a float for paying bills and salaries as funds come and go.  But if we did not have such a large reserve fund, there would be some other financial tool to deal with  cash flow, for instance.  There would be a cost to that technique, of course.  And there are the recommendations of how much to set aside, just in case.  But it seems to me that we have more than enough set aside for a city like Johns Creek that is collecting 10 % more than they are spending year in and year out.  In fact, we have a greater margin of error than a city that barely collects enough revenue to cover expenses.

So there is absolutely no reason that the reserve funds continue to grow at such an astonishing rate without a clear explanation.  And I firmly believe that this Reserve Fund’s size is doing much more harm than good.

The size of this Reserve Fund has not kept Mayor Bodker or the City Manager, Warren Hutmacher, from speculating that one of the wealthiest cities in Georgia has a sustainability issue (despite the rapid growth of the reserve fund).  A wish list of projects was created that totals more than $180 million dollars,which would indeed suggest there is a problem.  There would be if all of these wished for items were approved.  But they haven’t been.  And like a cloud hanging over the City, this wish list is negatively influencing the decisions of the City Council.

First, there is no sustainability issue if the City of Johns Creek sticks to what it is supposed to be doing, rather than dreaming of exceptional projects that have not been proven to be desired by the majority of residents.

Second, the Reserve Fund allows for the perception that we can afford lots of lower cost projects, regardless of the return on the investment(something cities apparently are not as concerned about as the private sector).  Consequently we see 100’s of thousands of dollars allocated for purposes that might not otherwise be approved if we had a lower reserve fund and managed our decisions much more wisely.

Many residents have attempted to point out the lopsided salary structure of the City’s Employees.  They have been met with dismissive attitudes(I am being polite) and promises that this will be looked into.

Residents have pointed out that we are overpaying for certain services, and that we are wasting funds on various projects that benefit only a handful of residents or that the residents already have access to via other means.

Residents have scrutinized the City’s financial results, offering observations and asking questions that go largely unanswered.

As the monies continue to roll into Johns Creek’s coffers, there is simply no pressure to address these concerns.  The residents and the business community are both left paying for this malinvestment.

In an effort to “move the needle” on the City’s revenue sources (too much of the load is on property owners and not enough on business), the concept of a Central Business District was launched.  Several hundred thousand dollars was voted on an approved to explore this “idea”. An outside firm, Urban Design Associates, was hired to bring the concept closer to reality.

The Central Business District has morphed from a :hypothesis” that was going to generate enough revenue to help offset the $180 million in projects on the wish list to being financially accretive.

DEFINITION of ‘Accretive’

The process of accretion, which is the growth or increase by gradual addition, in finance and general nomenclature. An acquisition is considered accretive if it adds to earnings per share.

Applying this word to our situation, if it costs us $10,000,000, and we generate $10,100,000, then it was accretive.  However, that is a very low bar for performance and a horrible return on investment.

This City Council needs to apply the brakes, and hard.  The hard earned money that they are collecting from residents at these levels, which are not being spent on services deemed needs by the residents, and is inducing the Council to approve projects that offer little return on investment, needs to be returned to its rightful owners.

That means cutting the tax rates for both businesses and residents.

One of the Council Members spoke of his concern for residents where even $30 a year makes a big difference.  He voted for a rollback.

I suggest he think about the $670 already collected from those very same residents.

Johns Creek has been a city too long now to keep finding excuses as to why we do not have the budget tools in place to have a firm and clear grip on our fiscal health.

Johns Creek pays the professionals too well to expect anything less than the best analysis from the beginning.  A 10 year financial forecast that would have landed you a D in your college finance course should not be acceptable to anyone, even as a “draft”.

The performance bar must be raised.  We have too much at stake to have sub-par performance from the very same people we are paying top dollars for in compensation.

Below is a chart I adapted from their ten year financial forecast.  I have included some crucial elements that needed to be included, for context.  Prior year data is from the Johns Creek CAFR report, 2015 data comes from the Mid Year Budget Report and years 2016-2025 are from the 10 year financial forecast.

Click on it and have a look.

Reserve Growth, Expense, Revenues, and Capital Expenses

Reserve Growth, Expense, Revenues, and Capital Expenses

These are my opinions.  I’d love to hear yours.
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