The city of Sandusky faces a fiscal crisis that very well might be equal to or greater than any other in our lifetimes. It comes at a time when our city government is wounded by its lack of openness, its lack of quality leadership and hidden agendas that do not value accountability. And in the midst of a fiscal crisis, it must be all about accountability.
City manager Matt Kline just a few short months ago told city commissioners the general fund budget was manageable and a carryover surplus could be preserved. He took aim to trim expenses once what was obvious to almost everyone in the whole nation -- a recession was hitting hard -- finally became obvious to him. He took aim but accomplished very little, and actually grew the city bureaucracy rather than cut payroll. He still didn't get it then, we're not sure he gets it now, or if he is capable to make the hard decisions that must be made.
Fast forward to today and what we know is there likely won't be any surplus in just two short years, and the city could be more than $2 million in the red by 2011. And that's a best-case scenario.
Kline's relative inexperience has not served the city well, and his missteps have been costly in a variety of ways. In the end, however, he was the selection made by city commissioners and he serves at the the pleasure of city commissioners.
City commissioners set policy and the city manager carries it out. While we've criticized previous city commissions about micromanaging the city manager, it appears this particular commission is mostly willing to let the city manager flounder without direction, then criticize him for having none. It's past time to end that.
Kline appears to still be in a "ready, aim, aim, aim" holding pattern of indecision, but now is the time residents need strong, vetted leadership, and commissioners must take a stand on the personnel cuts the economy is forcing Kline to make. Every city commissioner, and every city commission candidate, will have to take a stand and offer a vote of confidence, or a vote of no confidence, for the plan of action Kline recommends.
Kline's job performance thus far gives no reason to believe he is up to this task, but the same can be said for the leadership on city commission. Now is the time to step up.