EDITORIAL FOR May 26-28, 2018
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof. A couple weeks ago I placed a takeout order at a Benson restaurant. My order came to a little over $7 but I ended up paying nearly a dollar in sales tax. I mentioned that to the cashier who had an interesting comment. He said, “This is Benson and the tax rate here is ridiculous”. Of course, our friendly cashier didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t already know. Benson has the highest sales tax rate in Southern Arizona. That’s because three years ago the city council voted to raise the levy by a whopping 40 percent. At the time they tried to hide the hefty hike by calling it a one percent increase.
The tax increase was needed because the city was operating with gross waste and inefficiency, and trimming the fat was out of the question. The wasted money was going to line the pockets of good old boys who were in the good graces of City Hall. So not only was the sales tax rate increased but they also raised the property tax levy and they raised utility rates. When all that was done there was money all over the place and it needed to be spent. So they gave a nice raise to the local judge who already was raking in about $150,000 a year. And they gave more money to the prosecutor too. They also created a new position called “airport coordinator”. The airport coordinator’s job was to look around the airport for things that needed to be fixed and also talk to pilots and get their opinions. When the job was created and given to Dave Thompson he offered to do it for $600 a month. Earlier this year he requested $2,000 a month and he got it. A nice raise if you can swing it. Thompson’s wife also got a good job with the city. So did former councilwoman Lori McGoffin.
Perhaps the biggest single ripoff is the city owned San Pedro Golf Course. On May fourteenth there was a special city council meeting during which it was disclosed that the city has been subsidizing the golf course losses to the tune of about a quarter of a million dollars a year. That money is paid from sales tax revenues. Which means that every time you buy something in Benson you are helping to pay for someone’s golf game. Moreover, the city owns a restaurant at the golf course and it too is losing money which comes from you, the taxpayers. During the hour long discussion the city staff made suggestions on how to cut the losses. One suggestion was to rebuild part of the restaurant so that its patio would be enclosed. The price tag for the building project is an estimated $216,000. The interim city manager said that the goal is to reduce the losses from $250,000 a year to only $100,000 a year within the next three years. Seriously? The goal is to keep losing money but not as much? A couple years ago Mayor Toney King told a gathering that since the city took over the golf course in 2010 the city had lost over $5 million on the course.
Speaking of Mayor Toney King, he is a class act who wouldn’t be taken seriously in a town of any size. He has a terrible speech impediment and it’s hard to figure out what he is trying to say. He can’t even read the meetings’ agendas. But he’s got much of the tiny town in the palm of his hand. At every council meeting King hurls compliments at people right and left. He praises people like there’s no tomorrow. “ You’re a wonderful person and I don’t know what the city would do without you.” Over and over again the praises spew out of King’s mouth. And after he extolls a person’s virtues he often adds, “and I truly believe that”. Sometime ask a psychologist what “I truly believe that” really means.
One of my favorite Toney King memories is an event that took place several years ago when the city manager was up for review. King’s words to the manager were “You’ve done the impossible”. A few month later King voted to fire the manager who had done the impossible.
Toney King has been Benson’s mayor for seven years and that’s more than enough.
And then there’s the Vigneto development that I’ve spoken about many times in the past. That’s the proposal to build and sell a thousand houses a year for 28 years. Only a raving fool would take such a proposal seriously but every member of the city council has expressed the opinion that Vigneto is God’s gift to Benson. The only exception is David Lambert who is not seeking re-election.
So what is the point that I’m getting to? The point is that the people of Benson are being raked over the coals by a grossly incompetent mayor and a city council who are equally incompetent. Is there anything we can do about this? The answer is yes. We can vote them out of office but only if some good people are willing to run against them. But time is running out fast. If you know of some public spirited person who might like to run for mayor or for council member they have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to turn in their nominating petitions with at least 43 valid signatures. If nobody is willing to run against the incumbents we’re stuck with the same waste and incompetence for the next two years.
I’m CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions you’ve just heard and mine and not necessarily anyone else’s. If you’d like a copy of this editorial or you’d like to express your opinions go to the CAVE web site and select “Editorials”. We’re at CAVEFM.com. CAVEFM.com