Mayor Heartwell attended last night’s debate at the Grand Rapids Public Museum and had comments afterward. From the WZZM article:
- Outgoing Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says some of the candidates running to replace him have what he calls a “fair amount of ignorance” about how the city operates.
- “A billion-dollar budget deficit is absolute nonsense,” he explained.
I was one of the four candidate on the stage, and don’t remember if someone interchanged the words ‘deficit’ and ‘debt’. A deficit is usually thought of when referring to an annual budget, and indicates expenditures exceeded inflows for that year. A public debt is usually thought of as the accumulation of all deficits run up in the past to date.
Like most politicians, the mayor is using word play to try to make a point. He says, “a billion-dollar budget deficit is absolute nonsense”. And it is, and all the candidates know it. When I speak of the billion dollars, I’m not talking about a budget deficit, I am talking about debt. And I reference the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report when speaking about the city’s debt. Go to page 57 of the report, Long Term Obligations. See line items like:
- Governmental Activities – $102,566,183
- Business Type Activities – $426,772,731
- Component Units – $46,228,686
These items, on one page of the report, add up to $575,567,600. There are other areas indicating unfunded liabilities, and additional pages showing additional obligations. Read the report yourself, do a science project, and see if you can figure out the total debt for the City of Grand Rapids. I rely on what I’ve read an ex-city comptroller says. She has said in published articles that the debt burden for the city of Grand Rapids is approaching one billion dollars. I have no reason to doubt what she says.
Mr. Mayor, you can call me a poor politician, you can say my feet stink, you can call me ugly, but please don’t call me ignorant. And please stop trying to use word games to prop up your heir apparent. Word games, in the final use of your bully pulpit, are causing you to be disingenuous with your constituents, and you should be a bigger man than that.