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Will Cader-Thompson resign?

Jack Balshaw 6/19/02


In recent months the City Council has been concerned that our local cable access operation hasn't been managed as well as it should have been. Specifically, the directors allowed expenditures to be obligated before money to pay the bills was on hand. Nothing illegal, just poor checkbook management. Councilmember Cader-Thompson was foremost in supporting the resignation of the responsible directors for not doing their duty in maintaining a positive balance in the PCA checkbook.

She not only applauded their resignations but also has requested that PCA "come clean with the truth". She has further implied that they would have been even more irresponsible if they had had the chance. She stated her belief that if they had had access to PCA's capital funds, "there wouldn't be a dime left". She has a very high standard for public trust but a very low trust of people to act responsibly.

Now, it seems, our city council has allowed $1.5 million in transportation fund grants to lapse. Other grants of less than $100,000 have also lapsed. Wouldn't it be fair to say that our City Council, as the "directors" of the city, is responsible for this? And who more than Cader-Thompson, who holds others to such high standards, should accept responsibility for the city's lapses?

Now I suppose there is some semantic difference between paying bills when there are insufficient funds on hand and allowing $1.5 million to be lost for use in Petaluma. The PCA knew more money was coming in however, while the council doesn't know if it will ever see that $1.5 million again.

Why did this happen? Mostly, it appears to me, because the council kept understaffed departments doing more and more special studies or investigating more and more irrelevant questions asked by the council. This council wants nothing so much as to never be accused of overlooking a single item that might affect a decision. Two years ago I would have called this the Keller effect.

Whether councilmember Cader-Thompson resigns or seeks a second term in which to redeem herself, I'm sure she'll find a reason to blame someone else.

Thinking about PCA, I wonder why the funding conflict with the cable company has gone on for so long.

For background, in the summer of 2000 PCA requested an increase in the community fee from 50 cents a month to $1.25. The council thought they deserved even more and upped the community fee to $2. The cable company felt this was too big an increase and declined to collect it except from voluntary subscribers. Subsequently only about 1/3 of the subscribers pay the fee voluntarily. (Councilmembers note: only about 1/3 of the voters agree with your $2 alternative.)

The council has been trying unsuccessfully to get the cable company to collect the fee from everyone but in the meantime hasn't done anything to help PCA with its funding. The city collects about $625,000 a year from the cable company as a franchise fee but won't share any of it with PCA. Additionally, they won't lower their $2 imposed fee to something less that the cable company will collect.

This hurts PCA but not the council, so they don't really care. It would seem reasonable that, because it was their insistence on the higher community fee that caused all this, the council would feel responsible to PCA to some extent. But they would rather maintain their pride by not backing down than taking action to help PCA obtain adequate and secure funding.

Perhaps it's time for a council committee to sit down with PCA and the cable company to work out a compromise


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