Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How the meeting went

Last night I went to my first town government meeting. Even with my view of politicians I tried my best to go in with a non-judgmental eye towards the proceedings.

The meeting started at 7pm but my wife and I got there at 6:35 to get a feel of the place.

The feel I got was "where the heck are the citizens of Smyrna Tennessee?". There were only three other people in the room that did not have some sort of government id on a lanyard around their neck. The problem is that even those three had piles of paper giving them a "member of the system" look. Here they were, making decision on the budget and tax levels for the next year for everyone in the town, and no one seemed interested enough to show. That bothered me greatly.

When the council members first started to arrive a bit of levity was inserted into night. The room was hot. Uncomfortably hot. As each council member walked into the room a common line of "Why is it so hot in here", or a variant, was spoken. They then each walked over to the temp control and futily attempted to turn it down, just like each of the others has already tried.

That small box was the center of the councils attention at the beginning. I leaned over and whispered to my wife.
and all the kings horses
and all the kings men
couldn't get the AC
to work again
It was well into the meeting before things started to cool down.

The first one to show was Paul Johns and he seemed the friendly sort. Mainly because he was the only one to walk around and introduce himself. A good handshake impresses me and he did. The rest just wandered in and took their positions, including major Spivey. I was looking for a little glad handing.

The meeting started on time and my wife and I noted a few things. The first is the cameras. I'm not sure how the town meetings are broadcasted as I've never seen one. I gladly have no working TV in my house, thus no cable, and no community access channels. The meeting did not start when the major said so, the meeting started when a tech came out from the electronic room and said "in three, two, one," and then he retreated. Now I know the real power behind the throne.

Nice to know our local government runs on "cable/TV time"

The meeting then took the time to announce the subject matters of the meeting and got to work. The night was going to be involved with the years tax level and city government budget. That's when I was very disappointed, even in myself.

After announcing the issues for the night they opened the floor for public comments. Since it seemed my wife and I were the public that would have been us two. No one else was there. As previously mentioned that worried me.

After that uncomfortable moment of silence they got to work.

They started on the tax level and the needed tax increase. They bantered the subject and numbers around for the next hour with only one ripple. It seemed council member James Yates had an alternative budget that he felt would require little or no tax increase(not sure on that detail). The mayor and others did not seem to go for it. The view was that Yates's budget was not assembled with full input from each department head and did not take into consideration a lot of factors.

A certain amount of talk involved the number of police to hire. With input from the police chief about what would be a better resource to acquire. 4 patrol verses three narcotic or vice was the main subjects here. The police chief's main worry seemed to be that if certain areas were ingored a larger hire would be needed down the line to combat problems when they got to out of control.

They then voted and passed what tax level they thought was the best for the proposed budget.

They then went to look at and vote on the general budget and what was called non-profits. Things such as pet placement, animal control, United way, rescue squad, public housing, senior citizens center, and the boy and girls club(not sure of this last one).

This is where a humorous aspect of the night came in. They had already set the level BEFORE the looked at how much they were going to spend on certain non-profit items. They ended up a little over 100,000 over budget. After a period of debate the put most of the non-profits back at the same level of last year and still ended up over. Only thing they could do was to rescind their earlier vote on the tax level and increase it one cent. THEN they had the needed funds.

Because of the tax level they decided on the state law requires a public meeting before final vote. This meeting has been set for June 29th. I hope more people show up to have their say in how their money is spent.

Taxes are going up people. Economic factors aside, you should have your say in it. Be there please.

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