Former city employee not a Wise fan

In 2005 Sean Krebs challenged John Wise for mayor. At the time Sean warned that the city was “running out of money,” that we needed to “focus on basic infrastructure” and increase business activity.

How true that was, yet John still doesn’t seem to comprehend. Sean is returning to council next year and will be a welcome addition.

In the 2001 election John promised to put up signs pointing the way downtown, a project only now reaching completion, thanks to the City Council. He also expressed the need for “fair priced utilities,” an issue he seems to have forgotten. In his 2001 election statement he claimed that the studies are now completed and it “is the time for implementation.” How many hundreds of thousands of dollars has he drained from city coffers on consultants since then? Oh, and the man doesn’t seem to age, he’s used the same photo in all three elections.

Mr. Wise is blithely spending Enumclaw and its citizens into a hole it may never dig out of. If there is one thing that John does well it’s to present a façade of affability and concern for the citizens of “his” city. Unfortunately, as many people and organizations have discovered, if you act as if it is “our” city he quickly reverts to his vindictive side. The old phrase “my way or the highway” is appropriate.

John has driven a wedge between the city and local business groups, Fire District 28, the employees and many citizens. Because of his inability to cooperate and disdain for the fire district commissioners the search for a new chief took over a year. Interim chiefs are not cheap. Employees have learned to never cross the mayor. His concept of teamwork is that you will enthusiastically support him, regardless of the issue. Despite his claims, there is no “open door” policy. He rules in an atmosphere of intimidation. As a consequence, employee enthusiasm is smothered and their abilities squandered. Outside organizations are viewed as troublesome meddlers.

John has a bad habit of taking credit when things go right and placing blame when there are problems. His current campaign literature boasts of lowering the crime rate and decreasing response rates for the fire department. Those accomplishments are due to the hard work of his staff. At the recent debate he blamed staff, the state, the feds and fate for the massive cost overruns on the new sewer plant. He had the temerity to claim credit for coming in under budget on a project that mushroomed from $23 million in 2005 to $33.4 million today. If you doubt the figures, go online and look up Ordinance 2429 from last August.

Now, getting back to Sean’s comments that I began with, let’s recite John’s record for lack of foresight. The recent sewer rate increase of 55 percent was in response to the surprising fact that the utility was running out of money. That August ordinance discussed a $900 thousand deficit in 2008. It should have created concern and action by June of that year, but John responds 16 months later. How much did that cost the ratepayers? The city balances the checkbook every month and closely follows their substantial investments. Where was the alarm?

What about the Natural Gas Fund? Those pesty UTC folks have been around for a long time. In 2007 they demanded a manager be hired for the utility. The city reassigned an employee to the job, without removing any of his previous duties. At least it looked good on paper.

Did you know that we are behind on implementing the mandated stormwater utility? Did you know that there will be a new utility charge? John will probably announce that after the election. Are you looking forward to commenting on the 2010 budget? You’ll get to do that after the election, also. Have you heard John brag about decreasing property taxes? He points to the rate per $1,000 but avoids pointing out that the amount you pay has gone up. My house is up 19 percent since 2004. I’ll bet yours is too.

John is enamored of representing Enumclaw and chasing after dream projects. The man avoids focusing on the hard and unglamorous jobs that really matter to the citizens. The top four projects on the recent Transportation Improvement Program are all about the Welcome Center and Garrett Street. He boasts of the millions of dollars he has acquired in grants to pay for these projects. He neglects to mention the hundreds of thousand of dollars that the city has to pony up to meet their end of the deal. He also forgets that the Welcome Center grant can’t be used on the building he has had designed. The Garrett Street property owners don’t want the project that was submitted for grant money. It’s all wasted time, wasted energy with little to show for it.

That TIP plan for streets has lots of good projects farther down the priority list that we can afford and that will benefit the citizens. They just aren’t fun enough to hold John’s attention.

John has fiddled away hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants for horses, logos and branding studies yet is planning on laying off employees in 2010. He’ll talk about that after the election, placing blame entirely on the economy. Why does this happen? For one thing he doesn’t really care about the employees. The second part is, he refuses to develop a comprehensive plan for the city, a plan that would foresee major expenses that we know are coming. In recent years the city has replaced the roofs on the library, police department and fire department. Each time it was an expensive surprise.

Let’s discuss his claim that the council makes the big decisions, he merely follows orders. Council has no staff; they are dependent on the mayor for information. When that information is withheld, incomplete or misleading poor decisions will occur. Whose fault is that? For years council has requested more information and that it be delivered soon enough that they can review it. He has instructed staff not to deliver information to council without his approval.

If you made it this far you are wondering how I know this stuff, or if I’m just making it up. I’m the finance director John fired in January of 2008. Actually John didn’t do it; he hid while someone else did it for him. He said in the newspaper that I didn’t meet his standards of excellence. The real problem was that I told the truth to council, answered questions when asked, posted financial reports on the Web site (they’re gone now) and refused to be intimidated by his bullying.

What does the city need to do? Focus on the long term. Get a plan. Do things; there comes a time when you stop paying consultants. Take care of the streets and public safety. Shift the emphasis of the planning department to bringing business to town and fast tracking development projects that maintain our lifestyle. Work as partners with city staff, citizens and local organizations to get things done. There are lots of talented people in Enumclaw eager to get involved. All they need is a mayor who will let them.

Gary Smalling


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