The four horsemen ride again…

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 9, 2005

With the City Council of &uot;four&uot; approving all but two cents of the city manager’s budget request, we are now saddled with another year of painful taxes that enable spending at significantly higher rates than ever.

Local spending is 12 percent higher than last year with about $15 million new dollars being spent by our city administration.

This belies any understanding of the difficulty that many are suffering that must pay these new taxes.

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The contrived methods used to get higher taxes approved can be noted as both troubling in nature and a real embarrassment given how little real thought they were apparently given by some of our representatives.

The only issue that seemed to get much attention is how to represent this unfair situation in such a manner to insure that the four council members approving it get some political cover for their evil deed.

The notion by those who formulated this situation behind closed doors and with limited involvement by anyone who dissented, notes just how divisively public policy is formulated downtown.

It was readily apparent that the four who approved this failed situation were fully briefed by city management and those who did not support the party line were left out of the loop.

This troubling methodology demands a serious review of the propriety of such practices.

When information and access is restricted to some of our representatives in favor of certain policy objectives, a serious breach of trust is inflicted upon the people.

It was clear that those who opposed such free spending policies were cut out of the process.

With comments from the three council members voting against the tax and spend plan put forth, there was little doubt that the efforts of city management were expended to insure little change from the city manager’s original big plans.

With the control of information and a coordinated show brought forth from city staff to scare some with fairytales of service cuts, the situation resembled the actions of the &uot;Wizard of Oz&uot; rather than good government.

With the tax farce now over, it is time to get to some serious spending and political payola for the faithful.

Flush with our money, it is clear that a half a million dollars will be pushed forward yearly to support the operations of the Cultural Arts Center and more.

For those of us who oppose such free spending by our local government, it looks like this situation was decided some time ago.

When it was evident that the city was to be armed with our new $15 million in taxes the powers to be decided then to spend it and more.

It will be interesting to watch how even more will be squandered as the year unfolds.

The next big plan will most likely include how to chew through more than $12 million for a new parking garage near the Hilton Garden Inn.

Even given how disturbing this process was, at least it was clear that some on council did get it.

There were three brave council members, Johnson, Bennett, and Milteer, that understood that the offered plan just did not go far enough to reduce the pain felt by the people.

While it would have been heartening to hear more from these thoughtful representatives, it was clear that the script was set to insure that their voices were not of importance.

If nothing else positive comes from this sad situation, it is clear that there is not universal approval of such bankrupt policies. With only one mind and vote changed it is possible to place the local government on a new path and that is what is of serious note.

As we head into the end of the year and the reelection of all four council members who voted for this tax and spending policy, the voters will get the final say.

Many of these same council members are the loudest advocates who point out that if the people wanted anything different than what they get, they would voice their concerns to them.

Clearly the people will get the last say and will decide at the polls if they agree with the present policies we suffer.

With the usual four council votes that support taxes and spending for every harebrained scheme city management can dream up, change will come at the polls this winter.

All members of the community should be energized by these actions between now and then and vote for new blood on council.

Perhaps this will be the dividend for all of our taxes that will be spent this coming year…

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and regular News-Herald columnist.