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The REAL Problems with Healthcare in America
The attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare (ACA) failed. I don’t think there is one person that can confidently say they even know what was in the last revision of the proposed American Health Care Act. Politicians were so desperate to pass the bill, changes were being made faster than it could be revised on paper. What was certain was that the bill did not meet all the Trump administration mandates: that it provided “Affordable coverage for everyone; lower deductibles and healthcare costs; better care; and zero cuts to Medicaid.” Even though the various revisions of the bill failed to meet any of these mandates, the administration supported it.
This was purely political. It failed because it was wrong. It failed because after seven years of complaining about Obamacare, the Republican congressmen STILL had no plan to replace it and threw something together last minute. It failed because enough Republican congressmen refused to be bullied (to vote for it) and pledged to vote their conscious, in favor of what was best for their constituents.
Nothing about this congressional effort focused on the good of the American people. It was never about quality healthcare. It was ALL about repealing Obamacare- destroying Barrack Obama’s legacy. That was the single goal.
Bad, Better, Worse?
In order to discuss the cost and accessibility of healthcare, here are some thing you might want to consider:
- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the failed bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) are/were both flawed. The combination of coverage, cost control and availability do not work in favor of the American people under either plan. Still, had the ACA been replaced with the AHCA, 24 million Americans would have lost coverage. A big problem with the ACA is that the model (ratio of insured) hasn’t been reached, driving premium costs up.
- Without regulation, healthcare providers are at liberty to charge uninsured patients whatever they want. Insurance companies have a stringent table of fees it will pay for services, yet it can vary from provider to provider, affecting individual premium costs.
- Healthcare insurance policies vary so greatly that it’s nearly impossible for the average American to decipher. This leads to confusion, inadequate coverage and unnecessary higher out-of-pocket costs.
- Healthcare coverage is more a subsidy than it is an insurance policy. Most Americans would not be able to afford quality care, especially in the situation of an emergency or long-term illness without some sort of assistance. Paying out-of-pocket is simply not an option.
- Half (or more) of individual American bankruptcies are attributed to debt from medical expenses.
- Public and private hospitals alike are prohibited by law from denying a patient care in an emergency. The Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act (EMTLA) passed by Congress in 1986 explicitly forbids the denial of care to indigent or uninsured patients based on a lack of ability to pay. (from Google)
Taking the above issues into consideration, if we are guaranteed treatment, with or without coverage– who pays? We all do. Whether through higher taxes, bankruptcies, rising premiums or out-of-pocket. We will all pay for healthcare for everyone.
As long as healthcare is for-profit in America, any efforts to make it affordable are likely to fail.
Here’s one example of a for-profit problem: Mark Bertolini, Chairman and CEO of AETNA received $27.9 million in compensation in 2015, up from 15 million in 2014. The combined compensation of four other top AETNA executives was $18.7 million, not including $17.4 million in restricted stock and stock options. In spite of a huge profit margin and exorbitant compensations for top level executives, AETNA withdrew from the ACA marketplace in eleven states this past year, to assure their financial gains. From 2015 to 2016 their net profits rose 8% to $603.9 million dollars.
We are told they can’t sustain services because Obamacare doesn’t work. In reality, it’s about greed.
Life, Death… Corporate Greed?
When the actual healthcare professionals that you and I are likely to come in contact with– such as EMTs, nurses, doctors and medical office staff– have problems affording adequate health coverage– there is a serious problem with the system.
There are really only three possible options, I can think of, to bring costs under control and make healthcare in America affordable:
- Heavy government regulation of all healthcare in America.
- Make all healthcare nonprofit.
- Establish a single payer national healthcare system.
None of these are easily fixes. What other solutions can you think of?
Washington may be willing to push this issue to the side (for now) but the problem isn’t going to go away.
Life Through My Eyes
Eyes wide open.
Staring at the world
Taking it all in
Enjoying the good things
Surviving the bad
Questioning it all.
I started this blog several years ago to share my thoughts. I think I often have an interesting perspective on life and wanted to share that with others. I have a voice and I wanted to be heard.
Everyone has a story. A tale to tell.
For whatever reason, I’ve often felt like I’m on the outside looking in. Even when I’m in the middle of it, part of me is watching from a distance.
I’ve started dozens of posts over the past year and a half– with a hundred more ideas locked in my brain. Aside from my travel posts and those about my furry children– most have gone unpublished. Unread. Silenced or self-censored.
I became completely obsessed with Presidential election, cable news and the expansive concerns that have divided America. At times, it could be so overwhelming that it was paralyzing. It seemed to invade every waking moment of my day.
The lines between broadcast news, journalism, social media, advertising and ‘fake news’ have become so blurred many people don’t know what to believe. Unfortunately, to the detriment of society, too many people will believe anything they hear. Anything they want to believe, that is.
Well, I’m over it. My silence is about to be broken. If I can help or at least entertain with my words, so be it. I may hurt or anger a few people. If I can educate or open a few people’s minds along the way, then I’ll be achieving my goal.
I may not be an expert on some topics but I also won’t post blindly. I believe that even posting an opinion requires some research and justification. We can’t help who we are or what we believe; though helping others understand the backstory can make the picture more clear. Truth? Fantasy or fiction? In today’s burgeoning mecca of information it’s often difficult to tell.
I don’t want to write about just one topic because that’s not who I am. Theatre, Film, Animal-Lover, Writer…. Nature, Politics, Travel, Equality… History, Restoration, Photography, Reading, Cooking and Gardening… the Human Experience… these are the things that contribute to my psyche and make me a whole person. In daily life, my mind can jump from topic to topic in an instant. I want to share just some of what I see and what I feel. We may not agree– but by communicating there is a place where we can connect. We all have a common ground though many are afraid to approach it.
I’m going to write about it. I’ve been guilty of posting things on Facebook that require more than a one sentence proclamation or allegation. People have become too sensitive and judgemental and often aren’t willing to accept other people’s right to self expression. They aren’t afraid to tell you, you are wrong– yet refuse to defend or debate in a respectful manner.
Some of my posts may be short and hopefully, to the point. I think this blog may be a better platform to express myself. Besides, more than likely, those people that want their Facebook feed to be nothing but ‘cute’ memes and puppy dogs won’t bother to read it anyway.
I just don’t get it. It is easier than ever to communicate with the world. So why are so few people willing to listen?
Learn, Adapt, Repeat
There is a phenomenon occurring in this country in the form of two candidates: Donald J. Trump and Bernie Sanders. They are calling for a revolution. Many people are jumping on board the train without any real idea where they’re going or where they’ll end up. The Trump camp wants to “make America great again” by basically dragging us back in the past. The Sanders camp wants to push us forward into the unknown. Both candidates have very different messages. Nonetheless, their platforms or sound bytes are igniting an America that has long sat indifferent and unmoved.
I hope a lot of people will read on and hear what I have to say. I’m not going to intentionally bash either candidate– but I do hope you’ll consider some of what I’m hoping to express.
What are the driving motivations and emotions behind all this hysteria in this election cycle?
People are frustrated and angry. People don’t trust the government or the people running it. People are searching– but for what?
Hope and change.
Recognize the irony here? This was President Obama’s campaign platform. Most everyone weighing in will say that he has failed, at least on some level. The Republicans, besides being against the Affordable Care Act, will say that Obama has led the economy off the deep end– even though the numbers prove that it (the economy) is in much better shape than it was when he took office in 2008. The Democrats will say that his policies and contributions have not gone far enough. The obvious fact, that both sides will agree on, is that he has been unable to unite the parties and inspire them to work together. The underlying fact– Congress is not doing it’s job and merely electing a new President is not likely to change that.
“…. and to the Republic for which it stands….”
At this point, I need to remind everyone that America is a Republic, not a Democracy. What does that mean? In a Democracy, citizens directly vote on laws. In a Republic, as in the United States, we elect representatives to pass laws for us.
With the exception of often highly scrutinized Executive Orders, the President can’t actually make laws or enforce policy. Congress does that…. or at least that is what we elect them to do. If they fail and we continue to re-elect them? Isn’t it our own fault?
Our Constitution wisely established three separate (but equal) branches of government to protect and represent all of us: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
So why does it appear that the American people ignore all but the Presidential race when it comes to voicing their expectations? Why do Americans hold the President accountable but not the equally powerful representatives they elect?
Going to the Dogs
Okay, now bear with me here….
I just finished a class in Dog Emotion and Cognition. The parallels in understanding human development and interactions are uncanny. Cognition is made up of multiple levels including: memorization, understanding and application. These are affected by experience, environment and genetics among other things. No two dogs, even of the same breed, have the exact same cognitive abilities. So in order to train a dog or change it’s behavior you have to first understand how the dog thinks and processes things. Once you understand, you can adapt your training method to achieve the desired result. If you are only partially successful, you may have to start back at the beginning and try a slightly different approach.
Learn. Adapt. Repeat.
Learning and behavior in people can be looked at in the same way. Every person is different in how they learn, process and experience things. The nationwide failure of our education system is that we’ve developed a strict style of learning that does not nurture or support people in their individual, cognitive strengths. No person is unable to learn. They may just need to be taught differently. When a teacher is given the latitude to explore and find a student’s strengths– only then can they effectively teach.
Learn. Adapt. Repeat.
How does any of this apply to the election?
Learn. Whether you are Conservative, Liberal or Progressive you first need to understand what it is that needs to change. Settling on concerns such as better pay, a more stable economy or national security are not enough. You need to understand why and how the current situation exists and have some idea of how to correct it.
Voting for a candidate that makes campaign promises you agree with isn’t enough. People will say anything to get elected. They may even believe what they say. Do they have an actual plan to make it happen? (Trump openly acknowledges he has repeatedly taken advantage of the system he now says he will change. Sanders has been a member of Congress for 23 years and refers to the system as broken but say he will fix it.)
Adapt. Once you are well informed, then you can take action.
Every piece of legislation considered and/or passed, affects or is affected by every other law that already exists; either directly or indirectly.
Change requires action. Some action may correct one problem while creating another. The goal of government is suppose to be to establish and defend a fair, level playing field; giving every American the chance to be successful in their own right.
Repeat. When new problems arise– they need to be corrected. When loopholes are exposed and exploited– they need to be repaired and filled. Sometimes policies and laws should be repealed or re-written instead of piling on new ones to further complicate the process. This isn’t what normally happens. One inadequate law- spawns four more inadequate laws- which spawns twelve more inadequate laws. What’s worse? Many laws are passed and then aren’t enforced. Complicating our legal system only ends up hurting those it is supposed to protect.
Sometimes the political process works and sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t get fixed when no one is trying.
Evolution is the Revolution
Everything evolves. Nothing stays the same whether we actively seek change or sit by uninvolved and dispassionate.
In order for change to happen– it must happen on every level.
In order for change to happen– It must start at the ground level.
Change starts with you.
If you really want a revolution, you have to be an active part of that revolution. Be informed. Make your voice heard. Your elected officials need to be held accountable.
No candidate will enact change on their own and simply voting is not enough. You have to be an active part of the process. You have to be aggressive and can’t become apathetic. Otherwise, you’re just passing the buck.
24 Hours in Washington D.C.
Last Saturday, Michael and I celebrated my birthday in our nation’s capitol Washington D.C. He surprised me on my actual birthday (in December) with the planned adventure– our primary destination to see a special friend of ours performing there on stage. But how can you go there with a little spare time and not experience some of our nation’s history?
I haven’t visited Washington since I was a preteen– having been there at least three times as a kid. Michael had never been there before.
Washington D.C. has a great public transportation system, taxis are plentiful but it is also a very walkable city. There are a number of mobile apps available to help you navigate the city and plan ahead. The best part? Most everything is free! I did a little research ahead of time hoping to make the most of the few hours we had for sightseeing.
We started the day waking up at 3 AM to get ready and head to the airport. By 11 AM we had checked in at our hotel and were ready to head out to see as much as we had time to see.
Hotel Monaco (Kimpton chain) is a wonderful gem of a hotel. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was formerly the General Post Office built in 1839. It’s a quirky, stylish, upscale destination in the heart of the city. Features include nice sized rooms with vaulted ceilings, complimentary coffee in the morning, a wine reception nightly and a 24 hour gym. WiFi requires a surcharge but is free with a Kimpton membership. I’d definitely stay there again.
It was a little chilly and heavily overcast– not great for taking pictures– but that wasn’t going to stop us from making the most of this opportunity.
I’d planned out a tentative route, heading first over to the White House and then walking the National Mall. When you look at it on the map, it’s really hard to tell the distance from monument to memorial.
From my memories as a kid, everything seemed bigger and farther apart. In person, though, you can see that it’s all quite doable.
On our way, we passed may interesting historic buildings including St. Patrick Catholic Church. Founded in 1794, it’s the oldest parish in the city. The Pope was there on his visit in 2015.
The White House. We opted not to even try to get tickets to tour the inside with our tight schedule. I still really wanted Michael to see it. As we were walking around the inner Ellipse, a police officer told us we’d have to leave temporarily (for a few minutes) because they were securing the area.
So we walked to the middle of the Ellipse (which was open) and took some pictures from there. We could see a motorcade parked but weren’t sure if they were coming or going. I tried to zoom in on the men on the roof who were apparently police security.
The Washington Monument. The work has been completed to repair structural damage from the 2011 earthquake. Visitors can now visit the observation deck and museum with a free ticket that can either be obtained first come, first served or ordered in advance (with a service fee) online.
We didn’t tour inside but were content to view it from many different points along the National Mall while we walked. As a kid back in the 70’s, my family did climb all the way to the top. All 897 steps.
National World War II Memorial. Opening in 2004, this was my first visit to this impressive, sprawling site. The memorial is majestic and a beautiful tribute to those that gave their lives and all those that served. This commemorative sight fits in nicely with the surrounding national landmarks.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I was really excited to finally visit this memorial. I can clearly remember the drama and press surrounding its design and opening. The wall is engraved, chronologically with the 58,300 names of Americans that gave their lives.
At the entrance to the memorial wall is a bronze statue, The Three Soldiers, which does a beautiful job of capturing raw emotion of wartime.
I have to make a personal comment about the wall itself that I hope won’t offend anyone. I found this- disappointing. I think I echo sentiments expressed by others as well though. First, you can walk right past it and not even see the memorial from the main paths of the National Mall. Second, the reflection of the black polished stone is so severe it is hard to read the etched names. (The stone was selected specifically for its reflective nature.) The reflection creates a nice effect from one standpoint but not if you want to actually read the names of the many fallen soldiers.
In addition, I personally found the design to evoke political feelings that I feel are inappropriate for a memorial. The start of the low wall, growing and rising out of ground; along with the memorial’s placement off the main path brought to mind the controversies of the war. The memorial is almost hidden in the over all landscape, easy to miss or ignore. Not a fitting tribute to the many that gave their lives in service to this country.
The Lincoln Memorial. Iconic in so many ways, the Lincoln Memorial is the one national treasure I would hope all Americans would get to experience at least once in their lifetime. I have vivid memories of walking up those steps as a child, walking through those massive columns and staring into the eyes of that great man while he stared back at me. A feeling of awe and pride and patriotism rolled into one.
I felt this again on this visit. Being there, it’s easy to forget all the negative feelings and distrust of our political system that has come to the forefront in recent years. Here there is history, pride and a legacy of hope.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial. My first visit here, approaching from a distance; I could tell I was about to experience something special. Perhaps it’s was the fact that this memorial is so uniquely different from the others. It is both visual and visceral. It’s interesting to note that while much statuary is either found in stone or bronze, the soldiers depicted here are made of stainless steel. A memorial beautifully realized.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the only American honored with a solo memorial site on the National Mall, who was not one of our presidents. The memorial is positioned in a serene and tranquil spot on the Tidal Basin across the water from the Jefferson Memorial.
The centerpiece is the Stone of Hope, a 30 foot high likeness of this great civil rights leader. It is cut out of the larger Mountain of Despair, creating the entry to the memorial and sits further forward facing the Tidal Basin. Fourteen of MLK’s most famous quotes are engraved on a curved, granite wall. Noticeably missing– his I Have a Dream speech.
Bad weather and a hidden turn led us to skip the longer route and miss the FDR Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial along the Tidal Basin. We’d already done a lot of walking and Michael and I had a few more sights we wanted to see. Our legs were starting to get sore and after hours of exposure to the cold misty day– it looked like the mist might turn to rain.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I’d wanted to visit here since it opened in 1993. The architecture was beautifully designed and the museum contains many important exhibits telling the story of a dark moment in world history.
There wasn’t the emotional impact I thought I might experience but I attribute that to the fact that I’d visited Stutthof Concentration Camp in Poland and the Jewish Museum in Berlin two years ago. The twisting and winding Permanent Exhibition, though beautifully displayed, was at times claustrophobic. Rooms filled with things to see and displays to read were sometimes difficult to navigate without a clear path and quite a few visitors crowding the works.
The exhibitions: Victims’ Shoes and the 3-story Tower of Faces are probably the most moving and interesting. There are a number of restored artifacts on display but I was surprised by the large number of items and images that are actually facsimiles and not authentic.
The main thought that kept running through my head as we walked through the museum was: How many lives could America have saved– particularly of children– had our government not refused many Jewish refugees during WWII? Not the same– but similar to the current controversy over the acceptance of Syrian refugees today.
Heading back in the direction of our hotel, we had a good view of the United States Capitol, buried in scaffolding while it is undergoing a major renovation.
Ford’s Theatre and Petersen House. This was our last stop before dinner and our show. Being off season, we had no trouble getting tickets (required to enter and free) and were able to tour the theater and museum, taking our turn to view the box where Lincoln was assassinated, up close. Across the street we toured Petersen House where Abraham Lincoln died. It has been set up to resemble the time period even though none of the furnishing are original to the house in that period.
We headed back to the hotel to rest up a bit and then over to District Chophouse & Brewery for a wonderful dinner. Luckily, it was only a short walk to the theater as it started to rain.
Kiss Me Kate at Shakespeare Theatre Company. It was finally time for the main purpose of our visit: seeing our friend, Christine Sherrill, starring with Douglas Sills in Kiss Me Kate.
I loved the show! In addition to the top-notch performances, the production team lovingly delivered this classic Cole Porter musical in a way that made it fresh, funny and exciting.
After the show we went back to the green room to see Christine and meet Douglas. We got a quick backstage tour and then headed to a nearby pub for some great conversation and time to catch up with Christine.
We finally went to bed around 2 AM, got two hours sleep and then were up at 4 to head to the airport for our flight home.
It was pretty incredible birthday celebration not soon to be forgotten.
My Top Five of 2015
Another 525,600 minutes have come and gone. (Okay, so there’s a few hours left.) Time to reflect on the past year. Aside from the day to day, ordinary activities–much of which provide many unexpected special moments; there are those stand-out things that make the year unique.
Here’s my list for 2015:
Movies. I started the year watching a lot of independent films on Netflix and with Amazon Prime. There’s quite a bit out there to explore. Some are quite creative and unique. Others are just good old fashioned story-telling. And of course, there are many that are downright terrible. I didn’t keep track of how many I watched but I’m sure it was over fifty.
Michael and I saw quite a few main stream movies this year as well. For years I’ve avoided going to movie theaters because people can be so rude and annoying. We found though, if you go to the first showing of the day; you can avoid most of that. Plus, our local theater just replaced all their seating with recliners and reserved seating. Very comfortable and convenient.
We’ve seen probably a couple dozen movies in the theater this year. I don’t remember much of what we saw– so many were either bad or just okay. I have to admit that the best film I saw this year was one I had dreaded going to see. Quentin Tarantino’s The H8ful Eight is glorious story-telling. We saw it Christmas Day at one of the 98 theaters presenting the movie in the 70mm road show edition. I can’t say I miss film over digital but the work itself is pretty fantastic. It was the last and best film we saw this year.
I also should mention I really enjoyed (for different reasons) The Age of Adaline, Trainwreck and Get Hard; all released this year and all of which I saw while flying overseas.
Politics. The abnormally early start to the Presidential campaign has been impossible to escape. Much of it has left me dumbfounded. I don’t want to offend anyone (at the moment) by spouting my political views. I just want to say that this election cycle can best be described as the worst, bottom of the barrel, reality TV possible. No one could write this stuff.
It’s not just national politics that gets me worked up. I’ve spent a lot of time this year following local politics as well. You know what? It isn’t any better.
The bottom line is that you can’t trust politicians. Even the supposed good ones. They all publicly support or oppose one thing– and the turn around and quietly vote the opposite way. Too much talk –too little action. Action that doesn’t back up the talk. Why is it so hard to find an honest politician? (Insert joke here.)
Reading. I used to love to read. This year I challenged myself to read 20 books. I’m ending the year having read 96 books! I know, I know– why didn’t I push to finish 100? That wasn’t the point. Returning to one of my great loves was the thing.
I started reviewing books as well. Goodreads, Amazon and NetGalley are my prime target audiences. Goodreads continuously has book giveaways called First Read giveaways. I was fortunate to win 9 books in 2015.
In August I wrote about my three top favorites and they remain my favorites now at the end of the year. You can read about them here and here.
I don’t know how I let myself get away from reading. Whether for entertainment or education– I have really missed the world of books.
You don’t even have to spend a lot of money on books if this is your passion. There are many places online where you can find free books waiting to be read. I know I’ll be reading many more in the coming year.
Published. One of my bucket list items has always been to be a published author. That dream came true in October with the publication of my play, The House of Evil.
It is available in print and digital formats through Amazon and a number of retailers. You can purchase it by clicking here for print or here for digital.
The House of Evil is also available for production throughout the world.
Though I’ve had the satisfaction of completing a number works– this finally allows me to claim the title of published author. Which is pretty exciting.
I have written a number of things over the years that I also hope to eventually have published. I’m currently in the preliminary stage, planning a book on Christmas decorating; and I have a new novel in the works.
My play, September’s Heroes will be published early in 2016.
Eighteen Days in Southeast Asia. Traveling to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore was the biggest thing of the year for many reasons.
It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The people, the history, the cultural differences– were all enlightening and overwhelming. It was a whirlwind stimulation of the senses.
We spent many hours over the months leading up to our adventure- planning and researching, to make the most of our trip. Hours very well spent. All the pre-planning and anticipation were half the fun but certainly didn’t come close to the amazing experience itself.
If you haven’t already, you can read my day-to-day blog posts starting here. I’m really glad I have the blog as record of our trip. Along with the thousands of pictures I took, it helps trigger many memories I might otherwise forget.
Next stop? Italy in 2016.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
No Money Blues or Ruse?
How many people are familiar with this scenario?
You step away from the catered lunch spread, company paid for ‘just because’; and you walk into your supervisor’s office, noticing his new laptop. His old one was only six months old while most of the other computers in the building are at least five years old. You ask if you can discuss the purchase of a new piece of software that will result in time and efficiency savings for your department – leading towards a substantial growth in productivity.
Your supervisor stuffs the last of the free muffin in his mouth and ponders for a moment. Closing his new laptop and leaning back in his recently purchased, leather high-back chair, he says, “I’d like to help but we’re out of money. Maybe we can consider it in the new fiscal year.” The new fiscal year, of course, is nine months away.
We’ve probably all experienced this at one time or another. Especially in corporate or government work.
It goes like this:
- There is a problem.
- There is a solution. (Usually multiple solutions.)
- No one is willing to take the time or the necessary action to solve the problem.
- The problem continues.
- The decision-makers continue to complain about the problem.
- Business as usual.
This perfectly describes the majority leadership of the Elgin City Council*.
The City of Elgin, Illinois had an estimated population of 111,117 as of 2014. This makes it the eighth largest city in Illinois, yet it has maintained the same feel of any small town in America. And that’s a good thing.
The bad thing? The center of downtown is a ghost town and has been for years. Especially after 5pm and most weekends. Aside from a few struggling restaurants and bars and three (yes, three) tattoo parlors; most nights– there is just nothing going on. I’m not counting the Centre of Elgin recreation facility (operating at a deficit every year since it opened in 2002) or the library which are both to the north end of downtown. South of downtown is the Grand Victoria Casino which has also seen a major decline in attendance and revenue in recent years.
Elgin’s 2015 Budget is $290,535,730. I repeat, nearly $300 million dollars! But according to the City Council, Elgin has no money. That is, for important things. Things that are holding the city hostage– like the lack of economic development.
We need economic development NOW.
Why is there no economic development department? No money. At least that’s what they say. Of course you don’t have to look far to see where the money could come from, if the City Council really wanted to take the steps to advance this agenda.
You know the saying. “You have to spend money to make money.” But, what happens when you spend money and you don’t make money? You make excuses. Elgin constantly defends ineffective actions of poor financial decisions with phrases like, “Oh, they (or that) are (is) invaluable.” Or, “Some things just can’t be measured.” Really? Did you even try?
Throwing Money at the Wind Two non-profit organizations that could be considered responsible for economic development are the Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) and the Elgin Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (EACVB). Both are mostly ineffective. Neither, despite continued funding, show any accountability. Neither are even able to effectively use their websites or social media towards successful progress.
I feel I need to repeat that these are nonprofit organizations. They are not Elgin governmental departments. The money they receive for the city is basically theirs to spend how they see fit, without regulation. The DNA started as a volunteer organization and now has a paid staff (as does the EACVB) . The city gives them this money without any expectation of measurable return.
The DNA was supposed to be financially independent of the City as of 2015, and the City had not budgeted to continue funding their efforts in the current budget. Yet, on June 24th, 2015, the City Council voted to continue to give them money, through a Purchase of Service Agreement for an unbudgeted amount of $135,000. And, not for just one more year, they amended it for two more years. In spite of a few Councilmen raising their concerns, the Council still voted 9-0 in favor of this continued expenditure.
But, wait! There’s no money! So where is this unbudgeted $135,000 coming from? And why isn’t it being spent to hire a director of economic development instead?
Now, the DNA may try to claim success with the recent opening of three new downtown businesses. Okay, that’s nice– but what about the seven that closed in the past year? That’s right, seven businesses have closed. While it’s not the responsibility of the DNA or City to make businesses successful, they should still be providing support and resources to give them every possible chance.
There was an article in the Daily Herald recently about the Elgin Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; questioning its expenditures (71% staff and travel) and suggesting there should be proof of its effectiveness. Nearly $200,000 of their budget comes from about half of Elgin’s hotel/motel tax revenue.
LOOK! I found money! If the City of Elgin took the money they gave these two nonprofits ($335,000), they could easily hire and create a small department of economic development. That’s still only a pathetic 0.1% of the City’s annual budget.
The Elgin City Council believes that throwing money at something–even after years of no measurable results, is better than nothing. Which is exactly what they are getting in return. Then they can continue to shrug their shoulders and point fingers of blame at others, claiming they (the Council) tried. If I’m wrong— show me the numbers.
The Elgin City Council needs to learn how to cut its losses. They need to learn how to say ‘no‘ and ‘enough is enough‘. Continuing to fund ineffective organizations and projects with no accountability, is irresponsible and being poor stewards of our community’s money. This has gone on for years and it’s time that it stops.
The City of Elgin needs some sound financial planning and should be focusing on developing and reinvigorating our community. Not, continuing to toss money at organizations that are not effective, in order shift the blame.
So back to my original scenario… there are always people that have the ability to make change- to make decisions (sometimes difficult) that are better choices when looking at the big picture. Unfortunately, people often make decisions that are selfish, self-serving, or just downright easier.
There always seems to be money for the wrong things… Ideas that aren’t fully developed, things that are personally or politically beneficial; and it’s always easier to ‘do the same old thing’ than to commit to bringing about change. People are so afraid of change! Why is that?
Elgin City Council, you were elected as the leaders of our community to manage, protect and improve the city and its finances. It’s time you step up to the plate, make some tough decisions and do the job you were elected to do. Stop singing the ‘No Money Blues’ and fix the problem. The time to act is now.
*NOTE: When I refer to the Elgin City Council, I am referring to them as a whole. This includes the City Manager (non-voting member) who, as the senior ranking staff member on the City’s payroll; oversees and is responsible for bringing the majority of the financial and policy decisions to the Council for approval and implementation. There are only few individual Councilmen that are frequently vocal– seeking change and not always voting with the majority. Unfortunately, as members of the Council, for purposes here, they are lumped into the whole– guilty by association.