As he often does when Ocean Shores gets in a lather about something-or-other, Tome O’Scanlinn called from the dark, cold depths of Atlantis City to coyote-howl, “That’s nothing compared to what we got going on over here!”
Atlantis City, of course, is a cursed, quasi-island anchored 18.333 miles from Ocean Shores, due west as the duck flies. As the locals over there say, “If something can go wrong in Atlantis City, it will – twice!”
O’Scanlinn crowed that, just like Ocean Shores, Atlantis City used to be flush with money, until the local government started spending it on who-knows-what. And, just like Ocean Shores, Atlantis City found itself busted like a Ray Charles song. “Until they came up with this ambulance utility thing, just like you critters did,” Tome laughed. But it was a sad laugh, the kind of laugh you laugh when your face hurts from fake-smiling.
“Once they figured out this utility game,” O’Scanlinn said, with a sigh that would depress the Dalai Lama, “it was like giving the liquour store keys to the town drunks.
“Or, better put, the keys to the back door.”
Within 18 months, the Senators of Atlantis City had passed the following utilities:
-The Oops Utility: There have been so many mistakes at Atlantis City Hall – failure to file responses to law suits, contracts unread, insurance premiums unpaid – that the department heads convinced the Senators they needed to plan for mistakes, and create an “Ooops Fund” by charging citizens a mere $4.44 per month.
-The Taser Utility: A mere $2.22 per month, to make sure all the
A.C. cops were “juiced.”
-The Coffee Fund Utility: When it was discovered that Atlantis City didn’t even have enough money to buy its workers coffee on their (many breaks), union leaders came up with this scheme. For only $1.11 per month, the citizens would insure that they had a well-caffeinated work force.
-The Finance Utility: When it was discovered that the Finance Department was routinely going far over its own departmental budget, there were two clear alternatives: 1) cut spending; or 2) increase revenue. For just $9.99 per month, Atlantis City citizens can rest assured that their Finance Department is earning its overtime processing the overtime payments of other departments, as well as calculating all the booming vacation and retirement time of the city’s hard-working employees.
-The Computer Guy Utility: Since only one person in Atlantis City has the passwords just to turn computer on and off, he tends to have high monthly billings. By paying just $5.55 per month, A.C. residents can rest assured he will be paid, without “taxing” the General Fund.
-The Utility Loan Relief Utility: Rather than forcing the poor General Fund to pay back some $10 million in loans from the water, sewer and rain collection utilities, A.C. citizens were asked to fork over $11.11 per month.
-The Firemen’s GPS Utility: The stunning, glass-blown Atlantis City Fire Department is a thing of beauty – but so gigantic that new firemen often got lost in the complex halls. A modest $1.11 per month helps them keep track of each other.
-The Representation Utility: When the A.C. Senators were told they were the lowest-paid elected officials in the state, they were aghast! “No representation without taxation!” they cried (among themselves). In a secret meeting, they passed a $7.77 utility that gave each a raise to $99,999.99 per month.
-The Cat Catcher Utility: Union leaders lobbied for relief for the one employee in charge of rounding up all the stray animals in A.C. They convinced the Senators to create funding (just $3.33 per month) to hire a second employee, who would specialize in catching those dangerous felines.
-The Attorneys Utility: Just drafting the wording for all the utilities was costing a bundle in legal fees, so . . .