Audit Right There!: Debriefing of the Small Town Journalist

You’ll notice that this isn’t marked under news but blog. I almost didn’t write this article at all. In fact, today was almost my last day in the career track of journalism.

After this post, I’m switching focuses. I’ll still attend meetings and write about anything that intrigues me, correct the record and all that, but I’m staying away from the city that I grew up in.

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It’s two-faced.

Janus will say that he hates the local political games, hate-bating and pandering and that he wants to change things. As soon as you walk away however, the Port Jervis god will only spit profanities and vitriol on your journey home.

Liars. Or are they? Where exactly is the truth in what people say? There has to be some somewhere.

That’s one thing I may stay in town for though it doesn’t come close to the higher purpose of rending the newsworthy facts that citizens need in order to live, learn and grow.

It may be interesting to know how much of a statement is true or honest when people say marvelous things. I’d rather learn how we can all create a common ground, but that doesn’t seem to be the place people like me. I’ll just keep smiling silently then.

It’s not easy being the one to tell others that more communication is necessary, because if they don’t communicate already, they don’t believe that they need to. Omitting the truth is just as much a lie, no?

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Here’s the story:

I was hot on the trail of a risk assessment — a “pre-audit” — in the city, performed by State Comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office.

The glance at documentation tediously gathered by the city clerk’s office is a determining moment before deciding whether there were next steps for the city to take or even a full state audit to be conducted.

The state risk assessment began Jan. 23.

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Mayor Kelly Decker replied this morning that there was no such necessitation according to what the state had concluded that day.

However, that doesn’t end the journey of auditing.

The city performs its own annual internal audit as well. This is when the firm Bonaddio comes in and does a thorough search through the city’s documentation. This organization has been used for years according to City Clerk Robin Waizenegger.

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“…closer to 4%.”

Kristin Trovei

Even with the consistent auditing the city’s fund balance has fallen in the past decade to more than “unhealthy” lows.

In an article in the Times Herald-Record, responding to the village of Walden’s status, Brian Burry, spokesman for the state comptroller’s office, stated that having a fund balance of ten percent of total municipal expenses was a “healthy” goal.

Waizenegger sallied that fifteen percent, or just under a sixth of the city’s expenses, was a more appropriately called “healthy” fund balance.

That’s the process that the city goes through every year. To be clear, that’s enough for me. If there was to be more done, that would have been fine too.

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This brings us back to my rant at the beginning.

Most people use Facebook these days. According to Pew Research Center, only eleven percent of people in the U.S. don’t use social media. Of the other eighty-nine percent that do, more than half use Facebook, and more than half of that half, use it everyday, multiple times a day, to read, take in news, and catch up with friends and family.

For that reason, I’ve been taking my calls for sources and comments from Twitter to Facebook.

Most recently I called attention to feelings about budgeting, finance, spending and city revenues following this pre-audit.

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“…negative posts…”

It got the usual respondents, those that may have something negative to say. Those that still don’t feel that their representative government is taking the right actions in allaying these worries. Yet, there are also those that are more optimistic.

My question was plain, and any more middle of the rode it would have been flying high up next to the pie-in-the-sky.

The difficulty in remaining, and being seen as impartial, was turned on blast when politics stepped in on the post: a blanket shaming that served to discredit the question and any comments anyone had in the thread.

Even though replies were asked to be made as a “DM” or direct message to me, rather than comments.

The most heartbreaking part was the source of the political reaction. Someone that I had interviewed several times and was starting to feel friendly towards.

Perhaps there’s something to be learned in the old saying, “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

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Rice One!: Doing Good in 2018

Was your 2018 New Year’s Resolution to get smarter? Give more? Well, if you don’t feel like reading or searching for the charity for you, here’s one possible solution: FreeRice.

It’s an oldie but a goodie.

Created back in 2007, the game has donated trillions of grains of rice, from the United Nations World Food Program, and millions of users have helped accomplish this. The “100% non-profit website” accomplishes two goals: 1) it provides free education; and, 2) it strives to end world hunger one free grain of rice at a time.

I used to play it in the computer lab instead of solitaire, galaxy pinball, Runescape or Kongregate like the other kids. With several game types to choose from on FreeRice, my favorite right now is “famous paintings.” Thanks, Google Arts & Culture.

During the Aughts, there were a lot of sites that did similar things for idle, maybe even educational, gaming, to support such causes as feeding dogs, giving flour or beans.

From websites to apps, some things have changed. The top hits from the list are the following two, for donating for activity, rather than per dollar. Donate a Photo, supported by Johnson & Johnson only asks a photo! Charity Miles may make you walk a bit, but hey, cardio that gives to charity at no cost? Nice!

What I like about this

Apps that do good things are great. Altruism doesn’t need to be an uncomfortable adventure with the Peace Corps or Habitats for Humanity anymore! Now you can be your own type of superhero right from the comfort of home! Or at the gym!

That’s all pretty wonderful, but the ease of altruistic behavior and doing good isn’t entirely what keeps me excited about things like this. It’s where things like this will develop. What’s the diachronic outlook here?

Look at 2007 to 2017! Our charitable giving can start from a larger screen, playing games, answering questions and ultimately donating grains of rice at a time, to taking a selfie or a landscape photo and donating money to a variety of causes. Things look to be opening up in the direction of doing good.

People want to not only simplify their budgeting but do good with their wealth too. Even if only with spare change, they want to save easier, retire securer, and invest in their futures. I’d love nothing more than to delve into how the world around millennials is changing personal finance, but that’s for another article.

Here, I would like to conclude on an idea that I brought up in talking about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It came up in that post and may make a milestone moment this year: Universal Basic Income. It’s a topic that, like finance apps, will need to be further expounded elsewhere, because the concept of free money, as Finland has proven, is better than it sounds.

A Universal Basic Income sounds awesome already, but it could get even better if it were integrated with the taxing system. Not stopping there though! Transparency is a must for personal finance and all parts of civil society.

The Universal Income (UI) and taxing software would need its own platform, like an app. The UI would need a fairly simple user interface, or (also) UI. In some of our minds, we may even imagine being able to move our money, plan, save, budget, and even decide how much of it is taxed and where it goes.

That would be the kind of future where getting involved and interactive means not only making money but budgeting and saving money and learning more about civics and taxes.

There’s another upside to it also: Say you don’t want to support war. Well, you can open up your UI app and would be able to set your taxes so none of your money went towards the military budget, and instead goes to the education budget or the highway budget. That would be the day, right?

We could use more organizations like OneTreePlanted too.