Crystal’s Mark Hoffman: “You’re Cash… I’m Borrowing”
by Jason Bradley
In a work session on July 10th, 2014, Crystal Ward 1 Councilman, Mark Hoffman, was trying to make a case for his favorite method of payment (bonding) for the upcoming public works and police station projects. He made some remarkable statements that we need to explore further. I believe that there are fundamental differences in the way that he sees things from the average person, and with an election coming up, it’s a chance to ask ourselves if he represents the kind of leadership we need here.
Now, if you want to listen along, feel free at: (http://www.crystalmn.gov/2014_07_10_City_Council_Work_Session.MP3). I will source the hours, minutes, and seconds, so you can go back and listen for yourself. I am not looking to take his words out of context, but help you understand his principles based on his uncut statements.
This discussion begins at the 02:04:20 mark in the recording. First off, Councilman Hoffman states that, “…I think everybody knows that, when you do it, a bond is a mortgage.” Really? I suppose you might be able to make that argument if you are constructing a building (except for the fact that people take mortgages because they need to leverage their buying power because they cannot usually pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for a home, and home owners get tax credits I’m pretty sure government doesn’t get.) What about if bonding is used for machinery, vehicles, or equipment? That’s more like a car loan. What if the bond is written for roadwork (as in the Co. Rd 81 project)? That’s really more like a personal loan that one might take to obtain or repair another item with no equity behind it. A bond is simply… a loan.
A municipality writes a bond, and investors float the sum of cash desired for a project, with the promise of receiving interest over time, until the maturity date of the bond, when all of the principal has been returned and interest has been paid to the investors. (Yeah, I used to hold Series 7 and 63 securities licenses, so listening to Mr. Hoffman’s incorrect definition is amusing, or would be if I wasn’t paying the tab). So it’s not a mortgage at all, but a loan that is backed by the full faith and credit of the residents of Crystal. That’s awful nice of us, huh?
Now, there are times when bonding may be necessary, but it is not anywhere near as much as we do it. In fact, Councilmembers Hoffman, Selton, and Budziszewski use this as their primary way to pay for big projects (i.e. the Community Center, which he co-chaired, and the Aquatic Center projects mentioned at 02:04:30). In fact, he says that the Community Center was a $3.8 million dollar building (at 02:04:39), but they never discussed the $7.5 million financing portion of the project! Why? Because you’re good for it! He goes a step further and says (at 02:04:52), “… and me, personally, you know, I take out loans on cars and whatnot. You know, if I buy a $20,000 car, I don’t say I bought a $30,000 car, because that’s what I paid for financing.” Did you not though, Mr. Hoffman, pay $30,000 for that car? Shouldn’t the taxpayers know that you are asking for the $7.5 million, seeing as it is their money? You justify it by saying that because the repayment of a bond happens over 10-15 years, who’s going to miss it? What we see here is an example of someone that has embraced a reckless philosophy with not only your money, but his own. How can you trust that he will be responsible with your money, when he doesn’t even consider the long-term effects in his own finances?
Here’s where he unleashes a bombshell. At 02:05:27, he states that “… it’s philosophical differences, You’re cash, and I’m borrowing”. What?!?!?!?! That’s huge! The position has been that the City has the cash to pay for the new public works facility, but Hoffman, Selton, and (Mr. No Tax Increases) Budziszewski want to bond, which will put the slow drain on your pocket book through, you guessed it, increased taxes over a long time frame. You have already paid into the County Rd. 81 fund. The City is holding onto the cash they built up. They could use it on the public works building, or return it, and then ask for it back including additional interest to pay back the bond over time. How does that make sense? The City is going ask you for the amount anyway, only this option will require more from you. Here Councilman Hoffman has just admitted his affinity to accumulate debt, even when cash is on hand. Is that how your parents or grandparents taught you? Mine taught me to save up and buy something once I had the cash in hand. I’ve seen what the debt bubble did to America. I’ve seen what the mortgage bubble did to America. Too much debt is a bad thing. In fact, debt that doesn’t earn you an income is by definition, a liability. Equity doesn’t count for much until it is cash realized.
At 02:09:13 he states that he’s willing to overspend by bonding a possible $4-6 million of your money, when they have cash on hand, and that he feels more comfortable with bonds than cash. He drops another bombshell on us at 02:09:57 “you know, the City, we can tax anytime we want to, and for any reason we want to. We can tax, and cover our butts.” So that’s real nice. We the people are here to bail you out when you make a bad decision. I don’t want someone to make choices that affect my life, and then have to pay the penalty for that later. My money is not yours to summon from me anytime you feel like it. I gladly pay for police, fire, roads, streetlights, etc., but to intentionally overspend my money on a public works facility in inexcusable.
Lastly, at 02:12:27, Hoffman spins a tale about the wisdom of farmers that buy their $500k equipment by “writing a fricking check” over being land rich and money poor in debt, but spent all of the time previous to this fighting for the other side of the argument. Why is cash good enough for others, but not for us?
I want the best representation possible for my money, and I’m not getting it. Just remember Mr. Hoffman’s words this November, “You’re cash, I’m borrowing”.
Entry filed under: City Government, Crystal. Tags: bonding, Budget, cash, CD5, City Council, Community Solutions MN, Crystal, CSMN, debt, elections, Elizabeth Dahl, general election, Jason Bradley, Jeff Kolb, Joe Selton, John Budziszewski, Mark Hoffman, Minnesota, MN, Olga Parsons, police station, public works, SD45, Section2, Ward 1, Ward 2.