Budget issue isn't council character

 

May 29, 2019



Editor:

Most citizens (this writer included) admire those who volunteer for city government, and appreciate all the hard work that they do on our behalf.

Historically, I have found councilors to generally be very thoughtful and thorough in their deliberations. However, I have been very surprised at the level of defensiveness exhibited at recent meetings and in print by some of the councilors during these recent budget discussions.

Many citizens attended the budget meetings, and dozens attended the public hearing on the budget.

Citizens were concerned and universally opposed to the new proposal to transfer money, from levy taxes paid by residents for the Police Department and the Library, to be used elsewhere in the city.

Several speakers opined that the proposal might even be unlawful. But rather than to defend the proposal with actual evidence of legal authority, many councilors defended themselves, instead, as “being honest, good people.”

That principle has never been in doubt – it is the proposal that was being challenged, not individuals. At least one citizen reminded the city that it was going back on a promise it had made prior to the approval of the current levies, when the city was seeking levy support from voters.


Opponents have consistently cited the specific language in the levy ballot explanation, and questions and answers supplied with the ballot title that read: “The tax revenue generated by the levies can be used ONLY to HELP fund Sweet Home Police and Library operations” (CAPITALIZED emphasis added).

The city’s proposal would do the complete opposite, by paying city administrative and finance departments with levy money. The responses that opponents have gotten were that “other cities do it;” “we’re meeting council goals;” and “this is considered a ‘best practice’ and is recommended by the GFOA.” The GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) is not an official arbiter of ballot language. It is not accountable to the voters of Sweet Home.

I believe that this is a question of ballot and election integrity, and feel that this proposal would negate or dilute our vote. I believe this to be an issue of “interest vs. rights,” and feel that enacting this change violates our rights to have our vote upheld in its entirety. Our voting rights absolutely trump city interests that are contrary to those rights.

The city has provided only “talking points,” but no clear answers that show any authority to reinterpret clear, concise and (in my opinion) unambiguous ballot language.

I thank all of the citizens who showed up to the committee meetings and/or public hearing and joining in these discussions, and those who have taken the time to read the coverage of this important discussion in The New Era, and other media.

Gary Jarvis

Sweet Home

 
 

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