June city council highlights and other musings…

so, last night, i attended my first city council meeting (you can listen to audio of the meeting here). i have to say, it was indeed an interesting affair. in a lot of ways, it made me think of what it must have been like to witness government in action in ancient Rome. in a lot of ways, i think we really haven’t changed all that much in the many years since citizens came before the Roman Councils, asking for favors and making their voices heard. sadly, it seems like some on the current city council feel the need to govern a little more like those in ancient Roman Senators did than what they should…secret meetings…no public debate on issues in which the public is directly concerned.

it certainly does make for a certain level of efficiency, when you just propose and pass measures without allowing the public any input, but is that really the way government should work? certainly, none of us EVER want to have any more of our hard-earned money taken away from us than what we already surrender, even when maybe it is the only conceivable way to solve a financial hardship faced by our government. but does that mean we should remove the public from these decisions? after all, isn’t it the voting public that puts these government officials in place?

if we just wanted to let a small group of people make decisions for us that they felt were best, without us having any say in the process, then what is the point of even having an election? where are the checks and balances? just because the government looks you right in the eye and says, “this is it…there’s no other way to do it.”, doesn’t mean we should just follow along willingly without asking questions. there’s almost ALWAYS another way to do it, and if enough people look at the problem, someone is bound to figure it out. to me, THAT is how government should work. it slows the process, no doubt, to allow the public to debate and quarrel over every issue, but it also keeps our elected officials honest (or at least as close to it as possible).

so that brings me to the city council meeting last night. it was largely uneventful, but it was certainly well attended. i expected that maybe there would be a few fireworks over the stealthy passing of the city payroll tax, but there was no chaos or disorder…at least none that was voiced during the meeting. time warner asked if the city wanted to renew its franchise…they approved. some land was deeded back to a landowner from the city…a zoning change was approved…new operating procedures for the police were discussed and approved…and a request for a new ice machine to help out the local little league and kiwanas club events that feature refreshments sort of died on the floor, with only a motion passing to see if tourism could provide any of the money needed to purchase the machine. i also found it interesting that the council approved the purchasing of two police cruisers at a slightly higher cost ($400 each) from the local chevrolet dealer instead of buying them at the state contract price. don’t misunderstand…i’m all for buying local and supporting local business, but i couldn’t help but think how that $800 was one-fourth of what was needed to buy the ice machine.

one of the most interesting moments of the evening came after the meeting was adjourned. a citizen of morgan county was talking to councilman Jim Rupe and telling him how he was going to have to start coming to the meetings, now that he was vested, to make sure how they were spending his money (he was referring to the new city payroll tax). councilman Rupe was explainig that it needed to be done, but that if he didn’t agree with it, he could vote them all out in the next election, to which the citizen replied, “that’s the problem. i can’t vote ANY of you out. i didn’t have a say in it, because i don’t live in the city. i just work in the city, so i have to pay it.”

now, i’m in a similar situation. i work in Morehead, and i have Rowan County and Morehead City taxes taken out of every paycheck, even though i don’t live here, and it aggravates me just as much as it does the concerned citizen from west liberty. sure, i suppose i am using some of the services that this money goes to support, but in essence, it is taxation without representation…they take our money, but we have no say in how it is spent or who decides how it should be spent.

maybe west liberty needed a payroll tax; however, without any public discussion on why it was needed, and with the way it was so “secretly” passed, it just feels dirty and sneaky…like something right out of ancient Rome.