It’s great to plan ahead — that shows vision and leadership. Plans for a renewed riverfront, plenty for local residents and visitors to do, increased tourism — fine and dandy. Let’s plan for it. Plan responsibly, City Council, and you’ll get us on board.

Mr. Kooistra, I sure hope you’re right and Archer Daniels Midland is the boon in the bottom line we desperately need. When do those extra tax dollars start coming in… 2008? And when does Ashford start kicking in at 100 percent… 2012? When is Hy-Vee’s TIF up? And Kohl’s’ and Home Depot’s? When does the money start rolling in?

Whenever that is, there’s your starting point. When we have enough money in the General Fund’s operating budget to pay for the items we need on a daily basis… like police cars and computers and software, etc., then go ahead and bond away.

But right now, we can’t afford it. You’re planning on issuing more than $1 million in 10-year obligation bonds this year to pay for police cars that are kept only three years, and computers and software that will have to be upgraded or re-purchased long before the 10 years is up. That’s like buying groceries on a credit card. You’ll be paying for the milk and bread long after you’ve eaten it up.

Encourage your department heads to slash their budgets to the bone. The county already has a SWAT-team vehicle. Save the $167,500 to buy a new one for Clinton until we can afford it. Does the fire chief really need a $30,000 SUV? His ’96 Corsica has less than 60,000 miles, surely a regular car would do.

I know many in Clinton who would love to own the car he’s getting rid of. Why do we have to lease so many police cars? If the leases are for less than 10 years — the life of the bond, it’s a bad deal.

We know there are fixed costs that cannot be reduced. The $1 million-plus that goes into the retirement fund yearly for the 77 police and firefighters is one. Another is the cost of health insurance and other benefits that were negotiated with the unions of city and county workers.

Unfortunately, we’re fast approaching the point where the financially unhealthy taxpayers can no longer support paying municipal and county workers healthy wages and benefits. This makes perfect sense to the many citizens who are on fixed incomes or making $7 to $8 an hour with no benefits to support people making double and triple their wages, with excellent health, disability and retirement benefits.

Where’s your priority list, City Council? We have one, my neighbors have one… I’ll bet the majority of city residents have a priority list. What gets paid first — mortgage or rent, followed by utilities, gas for cars and trucks, food, medical care and way, way down on the list are those “wish list” items.

I urge you, encourage you, implore you to make a priority list and stick to it. The taxpayers, whether we’re homeowners, renters, or property owners, cannot afford every project on your “wish list.” There are far too many of them and far too few of us.