On Friday, the UMC board ostensibly met to evaluate Jim Valenti’s latest conduct and to manage the public relations fiasco they are in currently. Jim Valenti lied to the taxpayers of the community and yet he remains on the job. This is because what is unraveling before you is a battle for control of the Children’s Hospital and its assets. It is nothing more than a political game in which the taxpayer ultimately is funding both sides of the argument.
Back in April, I wrote “Tax Increase in the Works for Children’s Hospital.” In that article I pointed out that the County is very limited, by law, on what taxes it can leverage. Therefore it cannot just order taxes and fees, like the city does. Veronica Escobar needs increased revenues, in other words taxes, in order to complete the public policy agenda she has been pushing since working with Ray Caballero. The Children’s Hospital has always been an attempt to leverage federal and state taxes into the community, thus allowing them greater access to taxes. As I pointed out in my article, the children’s hospital was created specifically to keep it outside of the community’s reach through open records requests yet close enough to the hospital district in order to have taxpayers fund it but not accountable to the taxpayers at the same time. A public-private partnership, if you will, where the children’s hospital gets the shield of not having to publicly disclose information through open records requests and yet gets access to taxpayer monies through the hospital.
In the April article I wrote that the end game is a tax bailout for the Children’s Hospital. This is the nexus to what you are seeing being played out currently.
Remember, Veronica Escobar has access to the intimate details of the negotiations between the Children’s Hospital and UMC through her close confidant, Susie Byrd. I do not know whether either is sharing information with each other, and if so to what extent but through their friendship we can infer that Escobar’s interests are paramount in Byrd’s mind as the process continues.
Through all of this, the taxpayers are conveniently excluded from the process through an information blackout because of legal technicalities. How convenient it is that the taxpayers, who foot the bill, are not able to partake of the process and yet the politicians and officials that leverage the taxpayer monies are allowed to make decisions in secret.
In July, I published “The UMC Shell Game” where I showed you how the finances are nothing more than a political shell game. The taxpayers were told layoffs were needed and that the finances were dire. This was designed as a prelude to a future tax increase. Veronica Escobar knows full well that she just can’t support a tax increase because the taxpayers are already overburdened and will demand an explanation. Faced with a need to leverage more taxes but her political future in the mix, Escobar resorted to an old trick normally used by the city. The city indebts itself through voter approved bonds and other non-voter approved debt and when it comes time to raise taxes the politicians say we aren’t raising taxes because the tax increase is due to the debt service of the budget.
So, Veronica Escobar and cohorts allowed UMC to borrow money against future taxes. Yes, you read that right. UMC is borrowing money against taxes you will pay in the future.
Think about that for a moment. UMC, ostensibly, has enough money in its revenue streams, to meet its annual budget obligations in the next budget cycle. Yet, it is borrowing money to pay today’s bills with tomorrow’s taxes. When the debt comes due, you, the taxpayers will be faced with a dilemma. The county will tell you that in addition to the hospital budget it must also pay the debt it incurred the previous budget cycle. Voila, a necessary tax increase, that you get little to no say in.
Now let’s tie everything together.
Like I have routinely pointing out on my blog, politicians like Veronica Escobar need useful idiots to do their dirty work. In this case, the useful idiot is Jim Valenti. And like all useful idiots, Valenti is self-serving and wants his money. And thus, in spite of layoffs and dire financial problems UMC gives him a bonus. Only problem is that the information leaks out and the public is outraged.
Politicians, as is their nature, have big egos that need stroking and when an opportunity to garner political points or a need to payback a previous slight arises they strike. In this case, the public outrage was almost contained through the carefully managed release of information. Unfortunately for Escobar, a document was either inadvertently or purposely leaked and the taxpayers are further outraged by the disclosure.
Political infighting begins and accusations start to fly. The politicians force the hospital board to go on the offensive and Jim Valenti reacts like a typical sanctimonious official that knows where all of the political skeletons are. He reminds the politicians of that when he lets the community know that the plan is to get the Children’s Hospital under the control of UMC. It is just enough information to get the attention of the news media but not enough to seriously jeopardize the plan to get the taxpayers to continue to fund the children’s hospital.
Escobar immediately realizes this and issues a statement asking for the resignation of two hospital board members. She knows that her demand for resignations will be in the forefront of the news cycle and the public perception is that she is doing something about the problem. The problem though, is that everyone knows that she can take immediate control of the issue by putting an item on the County Commissioners’ agenda to review the hospital district’s current budget.
The simple fact is, whether it leads to concrete action or not, that it is enough to force the hospital district to explain their actions before the public. Unfortunately for the taxpayers, this is the last thing Veronica Escobar wants, a public accounting of the budget because the ramifications will be that the raid on the taxpayers to fund the Children’s Hospital will be exposed.
And, therein lays the political battle playing out right now. The nexus to the whole problem is than rather than publicly disclosed a complete picture of the finances the political game is to keep secrets. The Children’s Hospital was constituted and is being repurposed to keep its finances secret while using taxpayers to fund it. If you don’t believe this, just ask how much Susie Byrd is being paid to speak on behalf of the children’s hospital. Remember, it is your money that is paying her. The hospital district, supposedly in such dire financial distress that it needs to lay off employees and borrow money, yet it has enough to issue extravagant bonuses. The Children’s Hospital can’t pay its bills yet it has enough money to pay Susie Byrd to do public relations works for them.
The two things don’t reconcile unless you realize that the dirty little secret is that the Children’s Hospital will be used to increase your taxes soon.