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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lies of omission

Among the many things I have been accused of on this blog is lying by omission. I so appreciate that one, because it's a good way to explain Mr. Howrylak's claim that he can save the library with $1.7 million in "undesignated funds" and four more paragraphs of words containing no numbers. 
A financial person explained to me yesterday that Mr. Howrylak would be fired, if he had a real job, for basing a city's future security on actuarial tables. That's interesting. Well, Mr. Howrylak left out something else--half the facts.
In his resolution, Mr. Howrylak listed all the good financial news the city has heard, or prognosticated, in recent months. What he left out was kinda important too.

  • He left out that the $1.7 million dollars is no longer undesignated, rather it has been designated to plug holes in the budget made by dropping revenues over the next two fiscal years.
  • He left out ANY MENTION of the $1.49 million drop in revenues the city announced at an open council meeting last fall. I made a mental note of those LOSSES. Mr. Howrylak pretends he did not. 
  • He left out any mention of the fact that state revenue sharing is going to be cut dramatically, which will be a further multi-million dollar hit to our budget.

Yet last night, there he sat, sticking by his numbers. All the questions he threatened to bring back to the table vaporized. Nothing left but a quivering, petulant lower lip and the lie that his numbers added up.


  1. Sharon,

    Do you want a flippin library or not? You are so closed minded its pathetic. My 'DW' (wife) who by the way is a graduate of the esteemed Walsh College (in Troy), and currently the head financial person for a Troy based company feels that these numbers that Martin is presenting (isnt he a CPA also?).. may not be all wet as you claim. Where did you get your financial degree by the way?

  2. Ah, by the way, with regard to lying by omission, since I know you have selectively edited out my comments from the other side (ie; an omission) since you probably dont agree with me.. then I would say it's more than an accusation, it's a fact. (pps. check my previous sentences for grammer speling, and puncuation ok?)

  3. Did you see the Council Comments at the end of the meeting last night? If not, try to catch the replay. He was throwing around even bigger numbers and talking about how the council needed to agree on the facts of the situation.

  4. Anonymous, can you ask your wife to explain it to you so you can then explain it to us? I've heard Mr. Lamerato explain it, I've seen the numbers myself, I've read Mr. Szerlag's claims about why the numbers are not workable...let's hear your wife's ideas.

  5. One of you anonymi--Um, if your Libertarian, pro-Marty wife Erin is a financial person, ask her how a balance sheet can have only credits and no debits (when the debits actually exist).
    It's like a man makes $2000 and has $1900 in expenses. Then he claims LOOK! I got $2000 free and clear. I say, uh, no you've got a hundred bucks. He's only talking happy numbers, left out the sad facts.
    I balance a checkbook, folks. Don't need a degree for that. But it does, seriously, make me question Mr. Howrylak's degrees. He's either posing (faking) or doesn't know what he's talking about.

  6. @Anonymous: I don't want a flippin' library, I want a great library! I'd really like to hear more of your "DW"'s analysis. Detail, please. If we can keep our library without new taxes while not putting the future of the city in jeopardy, I am all for it. However, my analysis as a graduate of the business schools of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)and Michigan State University (East Lansing) does not support that position.

  7. And to the other anon - if I don't post your comments it's not because they are so brilliant I can't debate with you, it's because they are more bickering (like this one of yours) than substantive. You want to be posted? Write something interesting.
    By the way I can't "edit" posts. It's either all or nothing, so either I post your whole comment or nothing. I don't change them--can't.

  8. From years working within a strict financial control environment, Councilman's Howrylak's resolution combines selective use of numbers that support his position with unsupported if-come numbers and exclusion of numbers that don't support his conclusion.

    While he may be technically accurate in the numbers he uses to avoid being accused of lying, he can be rightly criticized for ignoring known facts that do not support him and that logically need to be added to his equation.

    If he was a financial analyst working for me, I would quickly counsel a change of professions to be a used car salesman

  9. Can't you Troy property owners/taxpayers/voters all get along? Long enough to quit picking apart each others' punctuation, syntax, grammar, etc.? When you can--or could have--found your common ground with one another and gotten the Library saved. And, obviously, at least some of all of the opposing viewpoints valued it enough to save it--judging from the close margin of the November vote. The blog is informed, clever and passionate, but it absolutely oozes contempt for all of its many perceived opposites--TCU, Martin Howrylak, the Tea Party, et al. Do you not think those folks get it? Do you not think this might have had some influence on them? And not constructive, for sure.

  10. Sharon, up front, no you dont have to post this, I really dont care if you do or not. But I will give Kudos.. for trying to put 2+2 together to equal 5...

    her name is not Erin, and I can assure you she is not a libertarian.

    But again, with regard to editing/posting not posting, she posted here.. in reply to another topic, and you did not 'publish' it. it wasnt bickering, it was substantive.

  11. Here we go again and again and again. Martin said it best - we do need to agree on the basic numbers before we can move forward. Sorry folks, Martin is right and so is Lamerato. It just depends on what perspective you are viewing it from.
    Lamerato is looking at future years - a 3 year rolling budget - but future years are not budugets that have been voted on by council - they are more like a forecast. Council will not vote on next years budget until later this spring.
    Howrylak is looking at this year and this year only. Extra dollars can't be rolled into next years budget because it does not exist yet. If there is money left, earned, found etc... in this years budget, it is up to city council to determine how/where to spend or save it. I don't think management can just push it into a budget for next year that does not yet exist.
    This is all new because of the new 3 year budgeting process. Council/management has not faced it before and they do need to agree on how to handle such circumstances.

    After all, if we have a budget for three years, next years budget/forecast must already be balanced(it can't have holes and still be a real budget). So if money that is left/found/earned this year rolls into next year it should create a paper surplus in next years budget for now.

    Yes, all this could change, revenue sharing might be even less, property values may continue to decline. On the flip side Troy might be able to compete for the shared revenue funding and win a larger chunk due to the budget changes being made now, or investment income might come in higher than projections again. We don't know what will happen next year, we do know there is money that was left from this year and it has been "allocated" to next years budget per city management.

    Use this money for the library now - city management can continue to work on concession from city employee unions. Those contracts are up for renewal in June I believe. Time is up for unions saying "NO thanks" to renegotiating. Concessions are huge and key to whether or not people will approve a new millage. I believe they will once they see the city is doing more than cutting jobs at lower levels. 22% personnel reduction is huge, but how many of those people were near the bottom of the pay and benefit scale? Move up the ladder and you can save more dollars, with the loss of fewer people. But sometimes higher percentages sound better, I care about dollar savings not percentages. I also care about tax revenue not tax rates. I know these savings will not be enough to fund a library but it will send the signal that city manangement is not protecting the top tier of more highly compensated individuals. We need butts in chairs and on the street doing work - we don't need more managers.

    Robin Beltramini said it best last night - "there is no trust".
    This city can still be saved, but the power is with the people now and whether or not you agree with the majority, somebody better start appeasing that group or we are doomed to fail.

  12. My dad was a CPA,,and the 1st question he always asked his client,,What do you want the numbers say,,or if he was auditing,,What do you want the audit to say,,sometimes,,he had many differ answers,,depending what was needed or who What the audit was to suppose to explain .
    As Lamerato said,,if the numbers add up,,everything is OK.

  13. OK, then, libertarians and non, TCU and non, Friends of Marty and non. Substantive and non.
    What do we do to save Troy?

  14. Not-Erin's husband -- at least I have a way to identify you!
    But what about my question? How can half the information, only the gains, tell the whole picture when there are so many losses?
    Give me some of that substance!

  15. Anonymous #5,654 - No, it's not always constructive. But may I point out that the political mission in Troy is to constantly discredit hard-working good people in order to gain power and keep taxes low at any cost to city infrastructure or property values?
    My opponents use active disrespectful behavior toward every other person on counsel and in the city government. They also use disinformation campaigns and dirty politics, so much so that even the local media is beginning to laugh out loud about their antics.
    Yes, I am brash sometimes, but may I ask if you have ever taken this "play nice" advice to Mssrs Gosselin, Kempen, Howrylak, Daniels, Burke, Witt, Witt, DeBacker, et al? Because if you have, they are not yet behaving.
    Are we to fight fire with rainbows?
    Look how far that's gotten us so far...our city is on the brink of ruin.

  16. Appease TCU!!!!??? That's a hot one. That is all we have done. I think it may be time to discredit the people who have brought us the trouble, not to appease them.

  17. Anonymous from 2:35PM...

    While I may not completely buy into your logic, I will say that YOU presented it in a way that makes far more sense than anything I've heard from TCU or Mr. Howrylak.

    It's a shame cooler heads cannot prevail to bring information forward without resorting to innuendo, misinformation, sensationalism, paranoia, and insult. The cherry picking of numbers out of this budget but not that one, then asking for newer numbers while swearing OLD numbers are all smacks of ineptitude.

    It is clearly a difference of how to approach the future. But even I -- who so DESPERATELY wants my library -- can see that the library will be the least of it if even half the predictions and forecasts are correct.

  18. Anon 2:35 here -

    Sue - I want my library too. It makes me sick that we are actually going to lose it - I hope only for a very short time. I wish council had just bitten the bullet, let politics be dammed and voted yes on Monday.

    Unfortunately there is so much garbage/misinformation coming out on ALL SIDES. You can't blame one group or another, all are guilty. City mangagement only tells us what will help solidify their engrained position. City council is either too busy telling us that we are only getting what we asked for or sniping at one another. The citizens are the ones left in the lurch - no one knows who or what to believe, and we are, in general, a pretty smart electorate. What is most sad though is that at most several thousand of the many thousands who live here, even know what is going on. Look how few people voted in the election. How many are actually reading and posting on these boards/blogs? Apathy is rampant, most are too busy or just don't care.

    I do know that anger and using the letters TCU like they are evil, do no good. I do not believe in everything they say - but they do care about this city and are passionate and have helped bring about awareness in this community. You give them way too much power when you blame them for the election. Blame people who did not show up to vote, people who whine about the streets and the potholes but can't get themselves to the polls. If you believe in a cause - quit complaining about what your opponent is doing and do more. When people start reading negative stuff the true message gets lost. You lose credibility when you trash talk. We have to start coming together and find common ground to make this work.
    Using words like "anti-taxers" and "unsustainablity people" don't help bring people together. Let's have a dialog about what will. If you really think TCU is the problem, ask them what they need to see before they will agree to an increase in the tax rate? I don't know the answer myself - perhaps there is nothing that can be done to convince them to ever vote yes, but maybe there is.

    Anon 2:35

  19. Anon 2:35 - Here is one problem. TCU folks say on their FB page that if council does save the library with the one mill, they will create an incredible stink and a recall campaign. They also talk trash about everyone else. They called themselves Tax-fighters in every recent campaign. Is anti-tax so far from that?
    I am one person who can say I sacrificed and and worked my butt off to save the library last year. And when you campaign like that you see the dirty tricks from the inside, trust me, it is HEARTBREAKING! We were honest. We told the truth and they lied.
    Give them too much credit? Then how come my neighbors and friends repeat all their talking points (slush fund, golden parachute early retirement, etc.)
    The leadership is not made up of a bunch of sweeties. Some may be, but many are willing to use sheer lies (see my October posts for proof) to win. So I ask you, very sincerely, how do you fight people like them? Appease? Beg them to come to the table? Or do you have to start to discredit people who DESERVE to be discredited. Tell me. I really want to know. In the Prop 1 campaign we played nice guy and we lost. Even a councilman cheated-no, really cheated.
    What are we supposed to do? How do you fight an unscrupulous opponent?

  20. Anon 2:35 here

    I get the problem - as you see it. But let TCU do what they want - they will anyway. Let them raise a stink - initiate a recall, who cares. Do not give them more power, they can't threaten to have a temper tantrum and everybody then just gives in. If council has the guts - they should do it because they know it is right. Ultimately, we get our library.

    Yes, anti-tax is very different than tax fighter. I may not be in favor of a new general operating millage increase but I am not anti-tax. Tax fighter can easily mean fighting against new taxes, no one is saying they don't want to pay any tax (as in anti-tax).

    I can see that you are passionate about the library, the other side is just as passionate. They don't want the library to close, they were just not willing to open up the checkbook without having some control. The city made its' mistake on the library millage by trying to restore all services right now. They should have gone for a millage to operate at the reduced hours and staffing levels we currently have. It would have shown that the city respects its' citizens finances and knows that we can't have everything now ( as they remind us at each council meeting). The millage would have provided adequate funding until property values rebound, then the library would also have more money and could restore what was lost. City management has been beating into us that we can't have it all anymore, but tried to get it all on the library millage request.

    TCU has a good network established and is plugged into the overall feeling of the citizens who have suffered. You may think they lied, but they too had ligitimate numbers to support their opinions - remember numbers can be skewed and everybody did it. Why is is that people who wanted the tax talked dollars that would be saved, even with approval of the millage, because overall taxes would drop? Now these same people want to talk mills because the dollar comparisons of what people in other cites pay is not as favorable to their argument. I bet I pay more dollars in taxes than someone in Oak Park - but their tax rate is higher than mine. Dollars vs. mills - it is a game both sides played.

    Let's face it politics suck!! In this case maybe you can't appease TCU - but the past is the past and as hard as it is - you gotta let it go. Discrediting people - even council people - is not the right way of going about it. You may not like, or agree with one word out of Howrylak's mouth, but you have got to admit he cares about this city and has given more hours of his time than any of us ever will. I may not like many of the council people, but I do respect that they are doing what they think is best - regardless of how misguided they may really be.
    To fight an unscrupulous opponent in any way other than on the up and up makes you no different that what you accuse them of being. Fight fair - but instead of fighting, I doubt there would need to be any begging, just ask over on the TCU page what would make them agree to a library millage without threat of recall or an incredible stink?

  21. Anon 2:35 (feels like a Biblical reference!)
    Here's the thing: I've asked on the FB page for information. I've asked for their ideas. I've asked for their rationale.

    You think it gets ugly here sometimes? It doesn't even come close to what they've said to me, called me, accused me of...these are people who are VISIBLE in the community, and the way they speak to fellow residents who are every bit as passionate about the situation? Let's just say that I know for sure who will never sell my home, do my accounting, etc.

    I'm done asking TCU anything on their FB page, at least for a while. Indeed, one of their most vocal representatives told me "we have nothing to discuss." You cannot share information with brick walls.

    Let someone else talk to TCU. I'll continue talking to anyone interested in true information sharing.

  22. Anon 2:35
    I won't answer your whole post right now (have to put the kids to bed), but about Proposal 1 last year.
    1. The city did not write Prop 1, it was written by local library lovers based on MI Library Law
    2. I know the mills may have seemed high, but that was because it was for 10 years and the expectation that property values would continue to go down for some time. If they started lower, they would have had to close the library soon anyway.
    3. It would have been a little more expensive because it was for an independent library. But that is extremely important! As libraries begin to fail all around Michigan, you will see they are all city departments, not independent or district libraries funded by dedicated millages--those libraries will struggle, but they will survive.
    The idea spread that the city wrote the proposal and was being greedy came from TCU, it was spread on the wind.
    A lady down the street from me wrote an Oakland Press OpEd piece that had every fact wrong-it was astonishing. She got her information from Kempen and TCU and OP ran it with no fact-checking.
    We really have a lot of work to de-mythologize what has happened, is happening and get ready for the next round of dis-information.