Thursday, June 5, 2014

Moment of Clarity

Sometimes "behind the scenes," is on video, and for that I'm grateful.

Today, during the county's initial budget presentation, the capital overview included a list of large items not included in the budget.  Fair enough, but there was no mention of voting machines, a submission I've been making now, literally, for five years.

That's okay, too, if the decision is transparent that the machines aren't being funded.  But such a list on a slide could lead passersby to believe that the machines somehow were in the five-year forecast.

The request for nearly $13 million, but was the only project requested above $3 million listed on the "large items not funded" list.

I sent an email to the Board of County Commissioners to alert them to this.  My intention simply was to have a trail if, say, in 2017 our current old machines were quickly failing, we were in a crisis mode and I was asked in a public meeting why I'd never requested voting machine funding before.

I was surprised today when the county manager spoke to the email, announcing he was in great anticipation of the Election Commissioner advocating a system, at which time he would "be able to budget that in."

Below is the submission I made this year, very similar to previous submissions over the years.

I've taken out the vendor quotes that were stamped confidential by the vendor, but these were the same quotes used by an earlier Board to place funds in the 5-year forecast in 2010.  Still, the submission is several pages long and details the scope of the project.

Reducing the budgeted amount in 2011 and removing it altogether in 2012, and then pinning the absence of voting machines in the budget today on a lack of clarity from the election commissioner conjures the need here for several adjectives.  For now, "unfair" will do.

A major impediment to serving our voters has been the current county manager.  A blog that demonstrates what we go through in preparing for elections that doesn't bring this to light would be equally unfair to voters.

If machines were put into next year's five-year forecast, we'd be looking at new voting machines in 2021, 18 years after the current machines were put into service.  Previous replacements (twice) have come at 15-year intervals.

Of course, it's no gimmee that anything will be put into the next year's five-year forecast.  It's probably evident by now, though, to you, dear reader, that I consider this year's budget process to be a crucible for our voters.   My commitment to the Year of the Voter requires such a thing.

In today's world of baseball's instant replay, we see fewer arguments by managers after umpire calls.  Those arguments are really for the "next call;" this call is over.  I see that for 2015, but we need the machines in next year's five-year forecast.

We can't wait any longer.  We have to move to a plan that prepares for the replacement of these machines. 

They will be replaced of course.  We can't have 400,000 voters raising their hands to vote.  This forced conversation is simply to ensure that there isn't a tax increase at the time to pay for them, blamed on the Election Commissioner.

There will be more budget posts--our presentation and discussion with the Board is at the end of this month.

Here is what was submitted in March during the county manager's CIP process.  (It's probably worth, also, pointing out that I volunteered to serve on the prioritization committee after a vacancy on his committee occurred last year, but I never got a response on that, either).