Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2004

Mayor Ralph succinctly summed up Suffolk’s accomplishments, status, future plans and goals. He did it in answer to those of us who dare write letters to the editor expressing complaints, suggestions, and doubts. Fair enough and his comments are fair game. I fail to see where he set any &uot;record straight&uot;. The five priorities he described are to a degree, platitudes; we’ve heard them all before. They could be considered boilerplate for any speech given by any city official. No one challenges honorable goals, but many might argue his statement that city council members are good stewards of taxpayer’s money. Several expenditures have been questioned the last few years, too many to enumerate and none have been answered or explained.

When the mayor hands all accomplishment credit off to council members, he also hands them the responsibility for past actions, and I doubt any of them would have dreamed up such items as a Court House fountain, restoring the railroad station, a Cultural Center, or a hotel on the scale of our Hilton. Those items required a hard sell and council, along with the taxpayers who had no say, might rue the day they said &uot;yes.&uot; If we thought council had any say in what some of us consider &uot;unnecessary annual city expenditures,&uot; we’d be jumping on them. Councils are trained to listen to expensive city managers and in most cases rubber stamp what is suggested as relevant, necessary, and critical to enhance city image, not to mention resumes.

All of our great economic progress credit goes to our Economic Development team. We citizens picture that department as an entity spinning like a planet, gathering businesses and factories with their gravity, left alone and operating successfully as a result… unhampered and un-tampered, spinning off tax dollars for other departments to consume. We suspect they had to be coaxed by someone to transfer $250,000 to the Cultural Center project. Economic development action is probably the only action that council should rubber stamp, without discussion.

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The mayor is very brave when he points to the hotel and conference center as &uot;projected to generate&uot; huge sums brought to us by the thousands of visitors coming to this facility. Our questionable Tourist Division success hinges on this but many of us believe our bars and pubs have a better shot. We are on his side and pray his prophesies comes true. He mentions salaries must remain competitive in the region for our city employees, teachers, and public safety personnel. Two out of three ain’t bad…ask any cop.

We fixed-income elderly wonder where the voice of council is, including the mayor, in regard to property tax relief. Ignoring us is not the proper way to serve constituents. Sloughing it off and hoping that future taxes from economic development will eventually take care of it won’t fly. We do not want to be driven out of our long established homes. So what–that prices of homes are ridiculously high if we do not want to sell. We deserve a reasonable opportunity to live out our lives where we have been comfortable for many years. Many of us would rather live like millionaires than be one. We hear nothing from the mouths of anyone on council, or city manager, as though the problem and we are &uot;untouchables&uot;. At least tell us, through your Communications Director, that you, council, are going to give it a lot of thought even if the Finance Director and the City Manager fail to get it on the council agenda. There is this word, initiative.

Those of us to take the time to write to Editors, or communicate by other means to record our dissatisfaction with some council actions regarding spending is not frivolous. We suspect there is little attempt by council to reduce spending. We wish there were more citizens interested in what goes on with their tax dollars. We wish more would get on the phone or take pen in hand.

We certainly are not against positive progress; we want to be proud to say where we live…but the older a person becomes the more they are cognizant of unnecessary spending. People on fixed incomes are experts at budgeting, learning to do without. We could teach council a few things.