Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The Crone Speaks

Well, it seems ol' Susan Adler Thorp has found a new hobby horse -- smart growth, or urban sprawl, or just plain sprawl. In her latest column she starts with AC Wharton and then slips over to her newest civic shortcoming.

People who start out like this should be watched like a hawk:
You don't need me to remind you how worrisome life can be now that
you're our mayor. You've been in office only 18 days, but I'm beginning
to get concerned about your administration.

Far be it from me to dish out advice....
And yet she starts right in, after a brief detour into some old favorites:
You won election by nearly a 2-to-1 margin over
your opponent - a doctor who spent $1 million of his own money trying
to defeat you. But it didn't work, mostly because he was a political
novice and you had a 20-year record as a proven leader.
Gee, that's funny. During the election, you spent nearly no time at all discussing Wharton, except in direct comparison to Flinn's shortcomings. You couldn't be bothered to tout him, only bash Flinn.

What is it that bothers you about that $1 million? Is it that Flinn has it? By all accounts, even your own, he's a very nice man who came by his money through honest, hard work. Jealousy, maybe? Is it the total amount? Wharton spent nearly $900,000, but that didn't seem to concern you. Thorp tried to state the "truth" that Flinn was "buying" the election, but she never was able to make the case by showing us how. Doesn't matter, just keep repeating the charges and they'll slowly accrete.

Apparently, SAT's concerned that Wharton is moving too slowly in assembling and directing his new administration. She seems to fear that he'll lose the opportunity of his "post election honeymoon," that period when happy post-election expectations can be used to prod agendas into action. She fears he's squandering his. But then, speed isn't a Wharton characteristic. Look how long it took him in the campaign to respond to the allegations from Flinn! He's a deliberate man, as suits a lawyer.
Who's going to be the chief administrative officer you promised to
appoint? You apparently haven't found one yet, and that's not good.

The CAO should be in charge of the county's day-to-day operations.
He's the go-to guy, the one who tells your department heads what to do
every day while you're shaking hands in Boxtown and Germantown. You
call the shots and he steers the ship.
That would be Jim Kelly, whom SAT declines to name. Why? Of course, out-going Mayor Rout's top aide, Ed Jones, is suspended right now for the credit card "crisis," otherwise Wharton could depend on the multi-mayor veteran. Maybe Wharton's just waiting to see who survives?
Since being a politician is a new role for you, here's a tip: There are
perils to being lethargic about your appointments. First, you send the
signal that you weren't ready on Day One. That's disappointing.
See? She's reneged on her earlier promise about advice.
While you're still on your honeymoon with voters, take advantage of it
and get that smart-growth plan going. Even the developers don't want to
criticize you while the public's still buoyant about your election.

Suburban sprawl has become a tradition in this county, but it's driving
up the county's debt. There's no such thing as real growth in this county.
People just move from here to there. The previous administration called
it growth.

It has all been a get-rich plan for developers. They build expensive
projects that require taxpayers to provide them with new roads and
parks and sewers and schools.

Make it clear now that you will support only suburban growth that's
sustainable - growth that will pay for itself. Taxpayers will love you for
Ahhh...see? I warned you that "smart growth" would surface soon after the election and here's SAT warning Wharton to get on the stick.

But notice SAT's new-found religion on developers! I can't recall her -- or anyone at the CA -- really going after developers (and realtors and bankers) up to now. It's too dangerous. They control a lot of money and a lot of people and a lot of politics. Some well placed calls and your paper's ad revenue dries up like the fall leaves.

SAT is disingenuous anyway. Our whole tax structure for the City is built on insane growth in the County. It's a giant Ponzi scheme, to keep new suckers coming into the City tax coffers to stay just ahead of obligations that annexation creates. If we suddenly began to slow growth, it would be disastrous. And if we began to improve properties in the center city and the Parkway loop, the neighbors would still be stuck with a higher property tax bill thanks to the improvements!

Yes, in principle smart growth is a great idea. But to drastically lurch this area into it would cause budget problems the like of which we haven't seen yet.

Given SAT's other propensities, and those of her paper-mates, one must suspect that the control that necessarily comes with growth plans is what they really want, to enact their plans for making people behave the "best" way.

Until next time.

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