By Trudy Wischemann
Last week, with its terrible news about Lindsay’s functional bankruptcy, was a mixture of pain and relief for me. It was horrible realizing that the fiscal shenanigans we’ve been tracking since 2009 have continued and are worse than I imagined. It was wonderful having someone else finally finger the culprits and reveal that they’re the same culprits I’ve been pointing at for years. But what to do next? How do we get the bleeding to stop?
It would be easy to feel like a victim if there were no reasons for hope. The weight of taking action is always heavy, although now more people are aware of the need for it and can share the load. It is also possible that the responsible actors will bow out in shame, although I wouldn’t hold my breath. For starters, what is needed is a serious change of staff at City Hall. As former mayor Ramona Padilla said at last Tuesday night’s council meeting, something’s got to change before they drain the city dry.
During the week, I re-read some of my columns from the last ten years. It was clear that this kind of moment had arrived, then disappeared, several times: the misuse of Measure R funds challenged by TCAG; the 2009-2010 audit with its 26 negative findings; the revelation of triple-stacking of low-income home loan funds – meant to serve more than 50 families – that were combined to buy newly-constructed middle-class homes for 11 city employees. And now McDermont, built and subsidized with public funds, has been privatized. Do I need to go on? It never stops.
It was painful to revisit my history trailing their misdeeds like a Basset hound with no master. But I’m not the victim here. The real victim is our mayor, Pam Kimball.
At Tuesday night’s meeting, after hearing the outrage and betrayal felt by many of the citizens, including former council members Steven Mecum, Ramona Padilla, and re-elected member Rosaena Sanchez, Mayor Kimball was visibly shaken. She had not read the paper’s article nor heard the podcast. She knew nothing but what she’d been told by staff during the previous council meeting, where they approved the new, improved bookkeeping that released over a million dollars from having to be repaid to the restricted enterprise funds from which they’d been “borrowed.” She protested that the council had done their “due diligence,” so how this happened was still a mystery to her. But she ended with the statement that she didn’t know how she can forgive herself for not knowing what she didn’t know, and I believe she really meant it.
She didn’t know because they have lied to her over and over again, just like they do to us. The reality that they hold her in no greater esteem than they do us, that it doesn’t matter if they make her look bad, or put her in a place of having not exercised real due diligence after all, of actually being responsible for the bankruptcy – that does not matter to them. In her comments Tuesday night, she stated that she had remained on the council to stay the course until we cleaned up the financial mess left us by Townsend et. al. She did not yet see that her faith in the staff has only allowed the situation to get worse.
Bill Zigler is a two-bit tyrant over the truth. He’s led her down this garden path with his slick answers to questions that never got analyzed or challenged, and this particular quality makes him unusable as city manager. Pam has the power and the responsibility to initiate his dismissal from this critical position, and she can restore her reputation in the community by doing so. Otherwise, it may be time for her to step down.
Trudy Wischemann is a rural researcher who writes. You can send her your stories of community restoration c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.