Today we begin running the responses to our reader questions for the two candidates running for mayor of Mission. A new question will run each day this week.
In the past few years Mission has undertaken a number of infrastructure and redevelopment projects. Some citizens are concerned about the resulting city debt. How would you assess the level of indebtedness? Please suggest any future action that needs to be taken relative to city finances.
In talking to a Council Person a few days ago, I was informed we are currently $56 million in debt. My opponent states that we are only $42 million in debt. I would assume it’s somewhere in between. For a City of 10,000 people I think this is shocking and appalling. Streets and infrastructure are two of the basic services expected of any local government, which the administration should plan for in advance.
The lack of proper maintenance has led to a good number of the issues that the City of Mission now faces. Paving streets and providing proper storm water run-off are legitimate concerns of the City. But millions of dollars have been spent on frivolous amenities during a downturn in our economy. Temporary trails, narrowing of roadways, changing storm water plans in the middle of a project, and spending inordinate amounts of money to salvage bricks from a roadway are just a few of the projects large amounts of money were wasted on. Future projects need to be scrutinized for their importance and benefit to all tax payers and not just a few developers with large unfulfilled promises.
I certainly appreciate the concern about City indebtedness. It is important to understand that the City has primarily borrowed money to fix our storm water system, which took $30MM of commercial property out of the floodplain, and to fix our roads that had been ignored for three decades. Our current outstanding debt is $42.3MM and we have dedicated revenue streams to pay-off all of this debt. In fact, Moody’s continues to upgrade our credit rating because our plan is so well thought-out. In addition, our long-term debt financing has allowed us to leverage over $20MM worth of federal and county dollars to help us improve our infrastructure.
I grew-up in Kansas City, Kansas and witnessed firsthand what happens to a community when neighborhoods are ignored and roads are not rebuilt. Once blight takes root in a community, it is difficult to turn the tide. Everyone wants to see their property values increase, which is why fixing our storm water system and upgrading our roads is critical for our future.
We are already seeing the benefit of these capital investments as the City of Mission has realized over $30MM in private development in the last 6 years with much more in the works. With the increased level of development that the City of Mission will realize, including the Gateway, it will be important for the Mayor and City Council to be prepared for the influx of revenues, directly and indirectly, that will be realized due to increased development. Options will include accelerating an already aggressive debt elimination plan or putting more resources towards our roads.
I recognize these capital projects are expensive and complicated, but if we want to maintain our vitality we cannot ignore them – we are worth the investment.
You can learn more about my campaign at www.DavidShepard.org
Tomorrow we will publish the candidates’ responses to our second question:
The East Gateway project has been a multi-year process. Are you concerned about the delays in the start of substantial construction on the project? What is the city’s appropriate role in keeping the development on track?