Now that we’ve all had some time to process Kristi Fulnecky’s announcement that she is running for Mayor of Springfield in 2017, we can examine her plans with a clear head.
In her announcement speech, Fulnecky said, “Springfield is in desperate need of one thing…leadership. Leadership to stop this infighting, lawsuits, and disputes within our great City and County. Leadership to unite groups that might not have anything in common. Leadership to listen to what the voters want.”
Taken on its own, Fulnecky’s statement is nothing more than typically vapid political speech from an exceptionally typical politician. However, when coupled with her outline for a “Contract with Springfield” (because heaven forbid a conservative create something original) a troubling picture emerges.
Most of Fulnecky’s contract involves references to supporting police officers and firefighters, which is the local politics version of “support our troops.” It is a slogan that appeals to conservative hearts and minds, but ultimately means absolutely nothing. Actually, I take that back. It does mean one thing: give me your votes because I said the magic words. The closest Fulnecky comes to outlining any concrete plan that involves “supporting” police officers and firefighters is her promise to “finally fix the police/fire pension fund until 100% funded.”
Another of Fulnecky’s proposed plans is to create a “favorable environment” for businesses in Springfield, which would involve “less red tape and less regulations for businesses.” Fulnecky said she believes this will “help combat the poverty problem.” Except, of course, it won’t. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Springfield has an unemployment rate of around 3.6%, which is below the national rate of 5%. However, the poverty rate in Springfield is nearly 25%. So the problem isn’t that people can’t find jobs, the problem is that the jobs in Springfield pay starvation wages. You can attract all the Walmarts and truck stops you want – the kind of businesses that are attracted to areas with little-to-no regulations – and that still won’t fix the poverty issue. For the umpteenth time: trickle-down economics does not work! The real issue is a lack of high-paying jobs combined with a serious lack of social services. Want to fix the poverty issue? Get yourself some socialism, like the kind Fulnecky already says she supports in the police/fire pension fund.
Both of these issues are at cross purposes with another of Fulnecky’s promises: keeping taxes low and government small. Again, these are just slogans that, in reality, don’t actually mean anything. How, exactly, is Mrs. Fulnecky planning to fully fund the pension plans, fix potholes and roads, fight poverty (in any realistic way), and “focus on public safety” while maintaining low (or lowering) taxes? She wants to ease restrictions and regulations for businesses, and, one assumes, not raise taxes on individuals, so where is she expecting this bucket-load of money to come from? Giving businesses the green-light to operate without restrictions does not magically create revenue. People spending money is what creates revenue; you can add all the stores you want in Springfield, if people aren’t paid enough money to actually be out spending money, then revenue will either fall short or simply stay the same. This is especially true of Springfield, where nearly 50% of the city’s revenue comes from sales taxes of some kind.
Instead of focusing on making it easier for businesses to operate, Fulnecky should be focusing on attracting the kind of employers who don’t pay their employees slave wages.
Even the recent budget surplus of 4.4 million dollars, which Fulnecky said (Jan. 5 on Facebook) should be used to “add police officers and fully fund the police department,” is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 334 million dollar operating budget of the city. Even if all that surplus money was poured into the police department, it would only fully fund the SPD at its current strength for 2 months.
Given that the city budget must, by law, be balanced, without an increase in funds from taxes or grants, fully funding the police/fire pension and putting more officers on the street (or retraining current ones) – not to mention Fulnecky’s other promised projects – will require cutting spending from other areas of the city’s budget. Whose money does Fulnecky propose we take away? Is she going to take it from welfare programs – a favorite target of conservatives – thus making the poverty issue even worse?
Even more ridiculous than her self-defeating, empty slogan-promises, are Fulnecky’s plans to display “In God We Trust” in council chambers and “uphold stricter nudity or indecency laws in order to keep our family friendly environment and attract families to Springfield. If Fulnecky plans, as she said in her announcement, to unify Springfield and “groups that might not have anything in common,” why would she immediately reference the two most divisive events in Springfield since the debate over SOGI?
In June of 2015, Councilmember Justin Burnett proposed adding “In God We Trust” to council chambers, which sparked a heated debate over the motto, dividing the city. It sharply divided the city council, with Burnett and Fulnecky wholeheartedly supporting the motto, Mayor Stephens saying it was unnecessary, and Councilmember Jan Fisk saying the phrase was “another way to discriminate against those who choose to have different views.” Eventually, the idea was tabled and died in committee.
The attempt to install “In God We Trust” turned out to be much more controversial than Burnett intended; he probably didn’t even realize there was such a strong and extremely vocal secular community in Springfield. Fulnecky’s proposal to yet again attempt at installing “In God We Trust” in council chambers will not unite different groups of people, but rather re-expose and exploit the rift between them. And all to score political points. Fulnecky’s true motivation for pushing “In God We Trust” is to pander to the religious conservatives in the city, who were disappointed at the measure’s failure to pass last time.
The indecent exposure ordinance was even more divisive than the “In God We Trust” fiasco. The ordinance, again proposed by Justin Burnett, was a knee-jerk reaction to a Free the Nipple protest held on Park Central Square. The fight over the ordinance, which passed through council in September, has become so heated that the ACLU has stepped in and filed a lawsuit against the city, citing first amendment violations. Currently, the ordinance has an injunction against it pending completing of that lawsuit, so I’m not quite sure how Fulnecky plans to uphold a stricter indecency ordinance that may not even be in place come 2017. Again, all bombast and empty pandering by Fulnecky.
Fulnecky’s master plan to implement her unrealistic and divisive contract is to recruit other council candidates who will do her bidding. “I will be recruiting candidates that will make these promises to you as well,” she said during her press conference. So it seems that her goal isn’t to unite differing groups after-all, but rather to stack the deck in favor of her ultra-conservative agenda. Fulnecky says she wants to provide leadership and, technically speaking, a dictator surrounded by yes-men is a type of leadership.
You can read Kristi Fulnecky’s full speech here:
You can read the Contract with Springfield here:
Images and documents: Fulnecky for Springfield / Facebook