An interesting comment seen by this publication is that it appears there aren’t any big issues to be addressed by this election. To be fair, we agree that the candidates have not done enough to spell out the real issues. Leave aside those that we’ve identified with certain incumbents in the present race. There are more substantive issues to address that need to be spelled out.
The underlying problem with Calabasas City government has not changed in seven years. Calabasas government has tripled in size over that time, while it’s services have not. Whether one agrees or not with the City owning and operating its own Library (we think there are benefits to the community), the Calabasas Library represents around 30 full-time-equivalent City employees. What the candidates have NOT explained is what the other 220 City employees do.
Studying the City’s financial reports dating back to the fiscal year ending 2004, the City of Calabasas in 2004 had 80 employees. Do you recall complaints about City services in 2004? We don’t. But since 2004, the City payroll has grown to 250 equivalent full-time employees. That’s over 300% growth, the bulk of it occurring over a period of a few years. Most people, this publication included, call this for what it is: BLOAT. And Mr. Bozajian and Ms. Maurer, please stop telling us the excessive size of our City is necessary to support the Library and the Tennis and Swim Center, because it isn’t.
To picture this in another way, the City of Calabasas is now the 5th largest employer in Calabasas, based on data reported in the City’s own annual reports. 10 years ago, the City didn’t even rate as one of the top 15 employers.
You can see the tremendous growth in payroll reflected in City expenditures in the graph below. This graph is compiled from actual General Fund expenditures reported by the City in its annual Financial Reports from 2004 up through 2012. We took the fruit of our labor and put it in an online, downloadable spreadsheet for our readers to evaluate on their own.
City of Calabasas Expenditures for Fiscal Years ending 2004-2012
The chart only shows current expenditures. It does not tell us our future obligations. The City of Calabasas is committed to pensions and health insurance that have no equivalent in current expenditures. We’re a young city, and we will one day learn that we have entitlement issues, following in the footsteps of our State and Federal governments.
Bloat is easy to manifest when revenue is high and there are no checks on spending. That pretty much sums up Calabasas. We’re lucky as a city to have a healthy revenue stream. But we should use our good fortune for causes other than feeding our bloated City Hall.
This is what this election is about. Indeed, this issue was also raised in our last election. What’s clear is that our incumbents running for election aren’t addressing this issue at all. Perhaps they’re too busy thinking ahead in their political careers, since, as we’re now seeing in the actions of one Council member, Mr. Gaines, Calabasas is turning into a launch pad for those who want to run for State office. Or perhaps our incumbents don’t know how to read a financial report. Or perhaps our incumbents simply don’t care. Whatever, it’s clear that City Hall plays hard to keep the status quo. And the chart above should indicate why. The bigger the organization, the more powerful it is. And we have a power hungry team running Calabasas.
Let’s not forget that we also have two incumbents running who have overseen this tremendous growth in spending. When they defend the City’s giant-size count of employees, they’re defending their own lousy performance in allowing this to take place.
The question is whether you, as a concerned Calabasas voter, will vote to keep the status quo, or vote for change. The real shame of this election is that there’s only one candidate running in opposition to our chummy incumbents. Your ballot will tell you can vote for up to three people for City Council. Three will be elected. But perhaps it’s time to vote for just one candidate, and show the others what you really think.