City officials tried to add more police officers via a November referendum. The effort failed miserably. There are plenty of details to share. We’ll do it in chronological order.
JULY: Franklin mails survey to residents
The questionnaire sought input on whether they support a) an increase in taxes for additional emergency services, b) the status quo, or c) cutting spending elsewhere to finance additional emergency services.
The Journal Sentinel reported the following:
Mayor Steve Olson said in a release from Mueller Communications and the city of Franklin that the survey is designed to help Franklin “finalize a public safety plan that reflects the opinions of our residents and their willingness to financially support these services.”
I asked the city if they could tell me what the cost of having Mueller work on the release was as well as the cost of the survey.
Pretty simple stuff. But this is Franklin we’re talking about where nothing is easy.
I did receive information from the City Clerk.
Attached is the documentation from the Common Council meeting of February 19, 2018, relating to the Public Safety Services review by Mueller Communications. The following action was taken at that meeting:
“Alderman Taylor moved to authorize staff to proceed with a project for a Public Safety Services review, including an Options Assessment and Citizen Survey, relative to Fire Department services and some Police services for an amount not-to-exceed $42,000 and to authorize the Director of Administration to prepare and execute service contracts as contemplated for the project, including but not limited to a contract with Mueller Communications, subject to input from the City Attorney as needed. Seconded by Alderman Barber. All voted Aye; motion carried.”
Contained in the six-page attachment:
Mueller’s proposal comes in two phases.
Phase I: Further evaluation of the issue and related options.
Phase II: Development and execution of a community survey that would garner public input on those options.
Mueller’s direct costs are hourly but are estimated to be between $12,000 and $14,000 with an additional 5 percent service and technology fee ($600-$700).
A third party vendor, Community Perceptions, would also be engaged that has expertise in developing and analyzing survey documents. That cost is estimated to be between $10,000 and $15,000.
ADDITIONALLY, Phase II requires printing and postage for the survey with an estimated cost of $8,500.
Phases I and II would have an estimated cost of between $31,100 and $38,200.
Seems to me that could go a long way toward hiring another police officer or firefighter.
I daresay someone like me who has lots of experience in writing and public policy could have met with the mayor and city staff to discuss the issue at hand and determine what input the city is seeking from residents. That would have conservatively taken about an hour.
Another hour could have then been spent compiling the questions for the survey the city could review and edit/tweak to their heart’s desire.
Again, even at a conservative rate of $150/hour you’re talking $300, maybe $450. You still would have to send out a mailer and have someone “analyze” the survey findings, but sizeable savings could have been made.
I wrote that the entire survey and process was an utter waste.
In a nutshell, the survey was biased, designed to persuade people there is a need for increased property taxes.
The mayor pounces
Recall that in February the city, unnoticed by just about everyone, laid the foundation for the survey ultimately seeking a tax increase the city could later submit that voters acted on their own to enact.
Now the city wondered, when do we really go public?
Waiting for the right time to take advantage of taxpayers. This was it.
From jsonline.com on June 22:
Just weeks after a giving a warm welcome for the Ballpark Commons at a groundbreaking ceremony, Mayor Steve Olson’s joy for the massive development turned somewhat sour when developers added a senior housing project into the mix, a change the plan commission signed off on June 21.
Olson did not mince words with his displeasure for New Perspective Senior Living, saying this was the “wrong facility in the wrong part of town for the wrong reason in the wrong development.”
The mayor’s comments came after he had defended placing a roundabout near the Claire Meadows Senior Apartments by saying, “Seniors complain they don’t like roundabouts. Well, how much longer are they going to drive? I’m sorry. It’s a plain fact.”
Again, the mayor assuredly did the way it sounded, but he was divisive.
If you believe social media is any sort of barometer, the mayor inadvertently set off negative commentary targeted at, in no particular order:
Emergency responders and what they charge
Seniors in general
The survey language
On the survey sent to residents the city wrote:
The Common Council works very hard to be good stewards of taxpayers’ funds…
That statement is debatable. In my view it’s also laughable.
I have lived in Franklin since 1992, have built two new homes here, and in 26 years have paid obscene city taxes each and every year. Spare me the patting themselves on the back routine.
The Common Council works very hard to be good stewards of taxpayers’ funds, as evidenced by the fact that from 2013-2017 total municipal property taxes stayed the same.
Commendable? You bet.
But let’s remember property taxes for that period of time stayed at the ridiculous amount they already were at.
What Mayor Olson conveniently omits telling folks is that during one of those years when he submitted a budget with a very tiny tax increase it took a series of budget cut amendments proposed by Alderman Steve Taylor to get the budget down to a tax freeze.
Why does the city literature mention the years 2013-2017 but not 2018?
Because Mayor Olson’s proposed 2018 budget called for a 3% tax increase, way above the rate of inflation. The Common Council knocked it down to a 2.5% increase.
The other day my wife asked a nearby neighbor if he had filled out the survey. His response came immediately, and I’m paraphrasing.
“If they need more money then why don’t they do what every family in America does and CUT something?!”
The survey does ask if the city should consider cuts as opposed to a tax increase to handle what we’re told will be an increase in demand for emergency services.
But c’mon. Does anyone who has lived here for some time and has been paying attention actually believe the city will cut anything?
It’s not that much
When you add the tax increase onto the schools, the county, the MMSD, etc, yes, it matters.
Apparently the mayor and City Hall are in possession of some crystal ball informing and alarming them that the need for services will increase dramatically and that the city just won’t be able to handle it.
This assertion sets up the elderly to be the scapegoats and too many are now of that mindset.
It’s ok to be flat out opposed.
I know I am and I can live with that.
I’ve never ripped the police or fire departments in Franklin and I was about to start. They deserve our undying gratitude and respect. But this effort geared towards a referendum and ultimate tax increase is NOT the way to resolve this matter. Years of poor planning should not result in punishing the already beleaguered Franklin taxpayers.
And now the Franklin Police Department has been dragged into this, lobbying on their Facebook page. I can’t speak for the police but I can only think they’re not thrilled at having to go political.
You’re being scammed, Franklin.
From the expenditure for the survey to whom the city hired to the survey’s wording to the long-term intent of the city (which is a referendum) to the city’s talking point that if residents say yes, then the city is not complicit. Taxpayers did it to themselves.
We pay for emergency services. It’s called the property tax. The people who were elected who have the authority need to fix this. It’s their responsibility. If they can’t, or if their only answer is to increase taxes, they need to step aside and let others take control.
AUGUST: The survey results. I blogged.
AUGUST: Franklin scheduled a referendum. I blogged.
OCTOBER: Franklin aldermen approved without telling anyone a police referendum was for 18 years, and still haven’t told anybody (until we asked).
NOVEMBER: The vote
I predicted the scaled-down referendum would pass. I was wrong.
No 57% 9,815
Yes 43% 7,512
This entire episode was botched and flawed from the beginning.
Adding police officers should have been addressed with the appropriate, usual method done by local municipalities each and every year across the entire state…during annual budget deliberations.
Instead, here in Franklin, elected officials abandoned their responsibility they were elected to take on. They ignored making the tough decisions, took the Pontius Pilate approach, and punted their duty to the voters. We couldn’t do it. You make the call. Bail us out.
Franklin officials did what they do best. They foolishly spent money on a useless public survey that asked citizens for permission to hire the moon, including police, fire, and paramedics. They reacted with jaws on the sidewalk when informed by respondents that no, the city was asking for too much.
Interesting side notes. I work with two Franklin residents. They’ve lived in Franklin and paid exorbitant property taxes for many years. They never received the public safety surveys.
In addition, they both were unaware of this referendum. When I spoke to them prior to the vote here’s what they told me.
1) He was not surprised as his eyes rolled. Not happy about lack of transparency or being informed. Not happy about 18-year automatic tax increase.
2) She immediately said she was voting NO, and would do so to be consistent with past votes on referendum questions. Her view (God love her) is that a referendum usually calls for a tax/spending increase.
December: The referendum fallout
The Journal Sentinel reported that the Franklin Police Department would drop the D.A.R.E. program and remove a patrol officer to switch that person to detective.
The newspaper said Franklin Police Chief Rick Oliva isn’t angry, just disappointed.
“Apparently, they (residents) didn’t want a full-service police department,” he said.
THE TOP 10 FRANKLIN STORIES OF 2018
2) Police referendum rejected
3) Reassessments outrage
4) Logsdon upsets incumbent Taylor
5) Police? No. A remodeled City Hall? YES
6) Like it or not Franklin, you’re getting another roundabout
7) Franklin OKs K4
8) Franklin fights but loses on Dark Store loophole
9) Finally Franklin admits they’ve got a developer problem
10) Fun, Fun, Fun in Franklin