NSBNEWS.net photo by Henry Frederick. Bill Koleszar, the Bouchelle Island resident who threatened to recall any elected official unless they cut $1.3 million from this year's fiscal budget so he could save $3 on his tax bill is at it again, rallying his friends and neighbors to show up at tonight's public hearing on the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
When Bill Koleszar arrived on the scene nearly a year ago, he was a fresh face with a fresh message. Or so we thought.
He arrived at last September's City Commission budget hearing with a threatening tone and 200 faithful followers:
"This is not the time to raise budgets," Koleszar told the commission. "It's time to cut. Everybody in this room knows what the economic situation is. In the country and in local politics. This year is different. These people behind me are not going to put up with the 11.2 (percent) millage increase you are proposing in the new budget. You can decrease services, you can eliminate services. I don't really care. I don't have a dog in this fight."
And then Koleszar's words got tougher: "This year, for those individuals who raise the millage rate, 11.2 percent, there is going to be consequences. I'm retired. I've got time on my hands, money in my pockets and I'm a retired attorney... If you've got the vote, you win and if you don't got the vote you lose. The ballot box is the name of the game whether that's exercise in removal or recalling elected officials pursuant to state statute."
The fallout from that hearing was tremendous. Commissioners Jim Hathaway, Lynne Plaskett, Jack Grasty and Randy Richenberg and Mayor Sally Mackay all caved in, voting unanimously to order City Manager John Hagood to cut the proposed budget by $1.3 million, in order to meet the 3.1 mills that supported the previous year's budget. Several people lost their jobs as a result and Hagood was forced to use mostly reserves to make up the difference. The following February, Hagood became the sacrificial lamb, fired and paid $290,000 per his contract to sit at home until the end of this month.
Last spring, Richenberg gave a public mea culpa, saying he was personally "ashamed" by his own vote after being "bullied" by Koleszar.
Of course, Koleszar never publicly acknowledged his real motivation, which he bragged to others, including myself, that he saved a whole three bucks with his intimidation.
Koleszar didn't stop there, though. He went on a crusade, jumping on the bandwagon in pushing for an investigation into the Angler's Yacht Club lease, which cost the city thousands more to hire outside counsel. The two sides are in negotiations.
He also bragged last month that he was going to be a "write-in" candidate, either for mayor or the Zone 1 seat held by incumbent Randy Richenberg.
His plan was to go out and rally the troops to carry him into office, but it never materialized. Instead, he threw his support behind Zone 2 candidate Palmer Wilson and the two of them were active in this summer's budget workshops, questioning the costs associated with the police and fire departments. Koleszar also aligned himself with Nahum Litt, a retired federal judge known locally as "the Shadow" who rips into city officials and the police and fire unions on his Web site.
Then Koleszar made a huge mistake several weeks back. He tried to take over a citizens group that wanted to hold a series of debates with the nine candidates in the two commission seats and mayoral race in the upcoming primary and November election. He was insistent that his hand-picked reporter from an Orlando TV station would ask questions. This didn't sit well with me. Koleszar distinctly told me: "This is my sand box whether you like it or not."
When I called Koleszar's bluff, he backed out and the inaugural candidates debate was a huge success with 200-plus people attending. All nine candidates participated, especially after hearing Koleszar was out of the picture and they answered questions posed by NSBNEWS.net and The Observer weekly newspaper as well as those posed by the audience.
Koleszar showed up and didn't say a word. He sat there with his arms folded, pouting like a little boy who got his toy taken away.
In the last few days, Koleszar's put out two e-mail blasts with the following message: "Your elected officials are planning to raise your property taxes AGAIN!! They have already voted to raise the millage rate from 3.1 to 3.94. No matter how you describe this, it is a 27% property tax increase. It is time to take a stand and say NO MORE!!!! Let us all send a strong message to ALL the politicians in Volusia County."
Like the Pied Piper, Koleszar is playing his flute again. He recently boasted he was going to bring 1,000 people with him to the commission meeting.
City officials this time are prepared for Koleszar.
Anyone who has attended the recent commission meetings knows the elected officials are going to lower the mill rate, either back to the rolled-back rate or close to it, so Koleszar is just going to blow more hot air.
Koleszar reminds me of the story of the Big Bad Wolf when he tried to intimidate the three little pigs. Well, he huffed and puffed and blew down the house of straw at last September's budget hearing when no one in municipal government knew who he was. Then he huffed and puffed and blew down the house of sticks with the Angler's. Now he's going to huff and puff and try to blow down City Hall (5:30 p.m. city Commission meeting in the Deberry room of Utilities Commission Building, Canal Street), but this time he'll be blowing at bricks.
Asked if she's concerned about Koleszar's huffing and puffing, Mayor Sally Mackay responded: "I've got bigger fish to fry than Mr. Koleszar."
He'll do his best imitation of the Pied Piper with his sock-less loafers, short pants and plaid shirt, leading his Bouchelle Island neighbors who don't regularly attend government meetings and give a big speech about how the city is putting everyone in the poor house, even as he enjoys his modest waterfront condominium, with all the amenities.
For all who remember the story of the Pied Piper, he led all the rats into the river by playing his flute and when the townspeople didn't pony up to his demands, he led their children away to a cave where they were never seen again.
You can put the flute down, Koleszar. We've heard your tune and your notes are all sour.