I am sick and tired of the elected officials wasting my tax money. I am also tired of the amateurish various boards taking liberties with my freedom. I voted for the ones I could, but I don’t trust any of them. Ahh, the battle cry of a few who are mostly uninformed. I think in some cases, trickle-down frustration from national politics is at play here. I spent 10 years on the city council and one year on the city planning and zoning board. Let me describe what I observed from inside the box. I am only speaking from my view on the city, but I think some of this also applies to the county.
Every year, the department heads at the city are given a target amount for their budgets. They spend several months determining the wants and needs. When that part of the process is finished, they all meet and pick apart each other’s budgets, and they are rough on each other. Hopefully they arrive at needs as there is not much room for wants anymore. The city council then meets for 2-4 hour sessions to go over every line item. Those meetings are open to the public. When the budget is approved it has to go through three readings. That is six weeks for the public to comment. It is then posted on the city website. During my 10 years, one citizen showed up one time for the meeting and lasted one day. The comment was made, “I didn’t realize the detail that goes into this process.” Now having said all that, these are your friends and neighbors. The decisions they make affect them as much as you. At $100 a meeting, they aren’t in it for the money. There are no “professional” council people, so perhaps a mistake or two will be made in some minds. The other boards are unpaid, so it actually costs people to volunteer for them.
After council, I volunteered to finish the term of a P&Z member. I did that primarily because of the stories of intimidation I had heard. I did find that in some cases, suggestions were made that obviously put the applicant ill at ease. I did my best to convey that for me, approval of the application should have nothing to do with paint colors, and that is a simplification, of course. After a year, the makeup of the board had changed enough that I resigned. Once again, these are volunteers. To charge them with being amateur is taking no note of their willingness to step up. Decisions are many times subjective, so there will be objections.
There are a handful of people in town, on the Enterprise comment page for instance, who, without accurate information, denigrate the efforts of the boards and elected officials. It has probably been the case throughout history that the guy eating and complaining about the meat took no part in the hunt. Under the cover of anonymous handles, the cheap shots come from many who avoid constructive involvement. I agree with very little of Mr. Vanderhoff’s life view, but at least he has the courage to identify himself. There is not an elected official who wouldn’t welcome a constructive, calm conversation about budgets and procedures. During my 10 years, I received fewer than a dozen calls regarding issues.
The last several contests for city council have been unopposed. Concerted lobbying efforts have been required to come up with a candidate. What happens when we run out of people who are willing to take the written and verbal abuse to volunteer their time?
Now before the haters start, I grew up here and ran with a genuine desire to serve. I freely admit I made some mistakes with votes when results and further information came in. I am pretty bulletproof. I am a fat old boomer and am close enough to my “sell by” date that negative comments without solutions will be of no concern to me. You may now commence fire.
(Stan Wolz is a former city councilman)