Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alliance and Coalition Battleships

For several weeks Fort Richardson has been under attack from the DeMattia, an Alliance frigate commanded by an Alliance admiral. The McCalpin, a ship of the line [independent] of the Coalition, [but aligned with the Coalition on this issue at least], returned fire but has been unable to stop the attacks. Yesterday, the Coalition's flagship made its first appearance in the battle, rolling out its big 24-pounders and directing fire straight at the DeMattia. For us spectators watching safely from shore, it's been a glorious spectacle. As the smoke begins to clear, it appears that both sides have sustained damage, but the Alliance and Coalition banners continue to fly.

After the jump, surveying the battlefield.

John DeMattia continues to claim the city is running a persistent operating deficit, using the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) as evidence. Bill McCalpin, and now the Coalition itself, counter that the CAFR calculates changes in "net assets," a different beast altogether.

It's puzzling why DeMattia persists in calling what the CAFR reports an "operating deficit." This just gives the opposition an opportunity to deflect the attack by throwing up a smoke screen of terminology. DeMattia's point would be just as valid if he just said the city has suffered a decline in "net assets," which is the CAFR terminology. Or would it? By the stubborn way DeMattia sticks with his charge of operating deficits, one has to wonder.

It's puzzling why McCalpin and the Richardson Coalition fail to explain exactly what's behind that reduction in net assets. Not hypothetically, but in reality. They supply examples of how it can happen -- for instance, changes in assumptions about future pension liabilities (interest rates, life expectancies, etc.). But they don't pinpoint exactly what's behind Richardson's recent drop.

In the end, those of us watching from inside Fort Richardson are left to wonder whether the real danger might be the collateral damage we might suffer from the cannonballs being fired at each other by the Alliance and Coalition's warships. We can't be sure there is a danger separate from that engagement. If there is, we can't be sure what is the ultimate source of the threat and what should be done about it, if anything. On closer inspection, we conclude that the smoke isn't beginning to clear at all.

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