In response to the letter from Mr. Kort van Bronkhorst, foreperson of the 2018-19 Napa County Grand Jury, published under the heading “Don’t shoot the messenger” (Oct. 1), the difficulty is that the messenger has a badly bruised foot.
In its response to its report “St. Helena: A Small Town with Big City Problems,” the city of St. Helena showed that the grand jury committed one clear factual error after another. By my conservative count, the city catalogued, with careful explanation, 28 such errors. This should never happen.
My favorite: the Grand Jury report states, as to out-of-city water users, that the “water and wastewater rates applicable to these users . . . are unknown.” Unknown? Really? How could any city not know what it charges water and wastewater customers for services? The statement is incredulous on its face. The rates for out-of-city customers are, of course, published for all to see. Other errors are nearly as egregious.
For me, the most painful attack by the Grand Jury was on the city’s Long Term Financial Forecast (“LRFF”). As mayor, I was a strong proponent in support of the preparation of the city’s first LRFF and, equally important, on timely updates. As the city’s response makes clear, the Grand Jury had no reasonable understanding of the purpose and goals of the LRFF. Its criticisms have no merit.
More broadly, the Grand Jury faults the city for alleged failure to present financial issues “in a regular, comprehensive, and easily comprehensible manner.” In reply the city notes, if modestly, that in August 2019 it received a certificate from the leading American and Canadian municipal finance association for delivering a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that “represents a constructive spirit of full disclosure to clearly communicate the City’s financial story . . . .” (Italics added). It is hard to beat that.
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Given that I was the mayor during the time period under review by the Grand Jury, I am especially grateful for the city’s thorough, thoughtful, no-nonsense, and indeed courageous reply to the Grand Jury report. I strongly urge every resident of St. Helena and, indeed of the county, to read the reply. It is a highly professional rejoinder in which all residents of our City can take pride.
Bottom line: The 2018-19 Napa County Grand Jury foreman doth protest too much.
Mayor, City of St.. Helena 2014-2018
Foreperson, Napa County Grand Jury, 2013-2014