Councilman might be misreading the public
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 12:49 AM
Greenwood City Councilman Johnny Williams was partially right.
We don't mean he was right to vote against the city budget and tax hike, although we know his vote was consistent with his stance on such matters and we have to give him credit for that.
During Monday's Council meeting and vote, Williams lamented the fact nobody showed up to participate in the public hearing to speak out about the budget and proposed tax hike that passed by a 5-2 vote.
"Why should we really care? The public doesn't seem like they care. They don't support us. So, why argue about it anymore? ... I'm very disappointed. There was nobody here to oppose any of it."
Williams was expressing his disappointment no one showed up to join him and fellow council member Ronnie Ables in opposition to the tax hike. True, no one showed to voice opposition, but that alone does not substantiate his claim the public doesn't support Council or care.
People attend government meetings when the topic affects them sufficiently to drive them to take a stand. That no one showed up in opposition to the tax hike might actually be an indicator the city residents — the majority, at least — are not opposed to the tax hike or overall budget. It could be they read the stories in the newspaper and believe the city has adequately made its case for city employee pay increases and a nominal tax hike to maintain services the taxpayers expect from their government.
It is also true some residents might have simply shrugged their shoulders in silent surrender, with the thought the tax hike was essentially a done deal and there was little they could do to change the outcome.
Certainly, no one — not even Williams — would have expected a horde of city residents to fill the council chambers and rally behind the proposed budget and tax hike, either. That's just not people's nature. They lead busy lives and tend to leaving governance up to the people they elected to serve on various councils and boards. Only when they are directly affected — whether positively or negatively — will they come out to take a stand. The proposed Grace Street Park is a prime example. Residents flooded council's chambers in support of the park. When that matter was finished and Council moved on to other agenda items, the place emptied.
Williams and Ables stated their cases more than once and gave their reasons for opposing the 2014 budget and tax hike. There was plenty of opportunity, in meetings and other means of public expression, such as the letters-to-the-editor forum in this newspaper, for the forces to rally if they so chose.
Given the outcome, we suspect the vast majority of city residents, while not thrilled about seeing their property taxes climb a little, believe Council and city management are acting responsibly.
The residents care, when matters affect them directly. They show their support on matters they are passionate about. Or in the voting booth.