Oct. 18, 2011 | Hayward's Finance Director Tracy Vesely does what she is told. She is a good worker. After performing the same job in San Leandro for just over seven months last year, she competently guided the city to a balance budget featuring few stomach-churning decisions to contemplate. Unlike other neighboring cities, San Leandro had already made the drastic cuts to employees and city services two years earlier. Her new gig is a little different.
Last week, Vesely made her first public appearance before the Hayward City Council. Her budget forecast was predictably unpleasant, but transparent, in a good way. It is easy to hide behind numbers, of course, but like her brief soiree in San Leandro, she did not gloss over what some might call accounting tricks. She identified $8 million in "illiquid" funds within the past 2011 fiscal budget that was not included in last year's budget. The result represented a clearer picture of the past budget since the figure was not cash-on-hand, she said, and primarily $7.7 million in redevelopment loans. But with a sleight of hand, the $8 million suddenly became "liquid" within this year's budget. So, why include the $8 million one year and not the other?
The projection does one thing. It sends a message from Hayward's notorious anti-pension crusading city manager to labor that a balance budget will again fall on the backs of city employee unions. Vesely showed no indication she maintained an ideology similar to City Manager Fran David when she was in San Leandro. In fact, if she was bent on breaking the backs of city employees, she already had a strong ally in San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy. That's why Vesely is merely doing the job the boss asks her to do.
It was clear during last Tuesday's council meeting, Vesely's budget presentation was heading towards putting the onus of labor without it being verbalized, that is, until Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney called her out.
"Two-thousand-twelve is a lower number in part because of [labor] concessions,right?" interjected Sweeney. "Correct," said Vesely. "So, I was wondering when you were going to mention that? It helps explain some of the difference, doesn't it?" said Sweeney.
Make no mistake, this imaginary budget shortfall is the work of David. Her hostility towards unions is easily accessed on the web, including a shockingly frank blog on the city's web site. She is setting a trap for city employees before going into labor negotiations in the next year.
The city's is already in the read over $4 million, according to projections. When labor pushes back, the number will rise to $12 million when David adds the "shape-shifting" $8 million in encumbrances from redevelopment. The burden then becomes artificially higher along with the stakes. Before you know it, wages and benefits resume a consistent retreat. Remember, all politics is local and in Hayward, at a micro-level, the downtrodden 99 percent will grow ever more slightly and citizens wonder why?
Tuesday, October 18, 2011