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January 9, 2007 > Editorial


Loose change

How would you like to peek into your wallet and find an extra $1,469,000 lying around? For most of us, loose change might amount to nickels, dimes, a few pennies and maybe, if lucky, a quarter or two. With cities, loose change that can be found in nooks and crannies amounts to a bit more. In this case, a review of the Capital Improvement Program for the city of Fremont shows 47 completed projects with loose change rattling around. These excess funds are not a condemnation of planning, rather a testament to prudent use of allocated funds showing cost savings over projections or the return of contingency funds that proved unnecessary - a refreshing change after the nonstop talk of cost overruns that continue to plague most construction these days.

Just as quickly as excess funds are found, they are squirreled away into other accounts for a variety of needs. Again, they disappear from view and find pockets with acronyms that can be as confusing as military designations. For instance, the staff recommendations include:

1. "Approve the close out of the capital projects identified on Enclosure A and for all funds except funds 131, 132, and 142, return the remaining project appropriations to their respective funds. For Gas Tax funds 131, 132, and 142 appropriate the remaining balances to PWC 8101 "CIP contingency."

2. "Approve the return of the remaining funds in 502PWC8570 and 502PWC8591 to 502PWC7953."

To be fair, these accounts all have a purpose, but in this case, money is and has been available for quite some time even when city representatives were busy explaining the need for more money from your pocket for capital needs such as road repairs. This is an example of why citizens need to be skeptical and cautious when asked for a handout by their local representatives. Is it possible that with "loose change" and an improving economy, dire histrionics that spoke of municipal skies falling were a bit over the top? As the economic picture improves, it is reasonable and prudent for management to be cautious about proclaiming sunny weather ahead. On the other hand, as the skies clear, we can afford to be a bit optimistic and as money is uncovered, make note of it with the understanding that sometimes you have to check under the couch cushions if you really want extra toppings on your pizza.

On another subject, the decision for a permanent opening at Niles Boulevard and Gold Street rears its ugly head again. Last time around, only four councilmembers were present and deadlocked on whether to disregard previous commitments to terminate TEMPORARY public access, reverting to gated emergency access. Originally, KB Home received acquiescence from the city of Fremont when it needed TEMPORARY access for construction purposes. A TEMPORARY extension was granted when weather delays impeded the project, but now, very much like taxes, once the door is open, regardless of promises and intentions, it appears that even though Fremont residents in the area overwhelmingly oppose continued public access, newer members of the council feel no need to honor promises.

The argument put forth by the police for quick access was not even persuasive to their previous chief, Mayor Wasserman. If gates are not acceptable to emergency services, why are they allowed at all? A tie vote under ordinary circumstances would mean that the motion would not carry, but wily Councilmember Wieckowski quickly asked for, and just as quickly received, a continuance to wait for new Councilmember Bill Harrison to arrive and save the day. Harrison was on the planning commission that forwarded this request to the council so it is almost a certainty that he will swing the vote to forget bygone promises and continue the imperious ways of the council. Is this a momentous decision? Probably not, but it does reflect the reason that many in Fremont reject city requests at the ballot box. There is much love for the city by its citizens, but many politicians fail to understand that election does not equal royalty.

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