Elissa Yount: Joint funding fun

If you want to know why “We are in deep trouble” (and those are Sam Watkins’ words, not mine), then all you have to do is analyze the philosophy of the speakers in the room at the Henderson City Council meeting about joint funding last night. It was a real eye-popping, mind-boggling, head-splitting event.

Mayor Pete O’Geary kept asking people who were opposed to joint funding projects to speak. Finally Tom Hannon corrected him and said that no one had opposed any project, only the unfair taxation. The lie that people who want to pay their fair share want to do away with the library and the recreation department is just that – a lie.

But the more times a lie is told, the more people will believe it. Even though every speaker who spoke against joint funding emphasized that the projects for which we are paying unfair taxes are important and may need even more funding, my bet is that you will continue to hear the lie that there is a move to do away with the library and recreation.

Former Mayor Chick Young took complete credit for being the architect for joint ventures — he called them successful, and he called the way they got that business done successful. His exact words were: “The way not to solve a problem is in an open atmosphere or [discussed] in the press.” This sent the clear message that those of us who had come to the meeting to participate in the democratic process should have just stayed at home because the problems were not going to be solved “in an open atmosphere.”

Is this why we are in this mess? Are decisions still being made before meetings and behind doors? Is this how you would describe the democratic process? Now you know why we built all these buildings without ever having a referendum. You just can’t get business done in an “open atmosphere.” The people who are going to be paying the bills might not approve if you discussed their business in an “open atmosphere.”

Mr. Young went on to say that it was going to take “reasonable” people to consider a problem in order to get a problem solved. His inference was that anyone who opposed the unfair taxation of joint ventures was surely unreasonable. But the final mind-boggler was when he stated that there were no “hard and fast thing(s)” to joint funding, but they were done right to begin with and by “reasonable people”. I suppose he was telling us to just suck it up and accept that changes should not be made.

When Sam Watkins spoke and told us “we are in deep trouble,” he really knew what he was talking about. He said the days when we “could hide who we are and what we are” are gone. He stressed that we want to “make sure people want to live in Henderson.”

Well, how about starting with fair taxation for city residents? Mr. Watkins reminded us that the people in Oxford were afforded the democratic process of a referendum. How that proved that joint funding was fair and good simply escapes me.

But Sam Watkins did say, “I don’t care who pays for it.”

And that, my friends, is the real crux of the matter. “I don’t care who pays for it” is easy to say if you are wealthy or secure in your finances and future. “I don’t care who pays for it” is easy to say if you do not have an ethical sense of fairness and rightness. “I don’t care who pays for it” is easy to say when you are not planning to pay back $1.8 million owed to the city.

But the final mind-boggling statement came when Mr. Watkins said that to keep Roses and Harriet & Henderson people, we needed to provide good quality of life issues. As a friend said after the meeting, “How has that worked for us?”

It would be impossible to adjust the attitudes or change the philosophy of Mr. Young or Mr. Watkins. But as voters, we can make an effort to adjust the attitudes of the city council and the Vance County Commissioners. The county needs to step up and start doing the part that they would not or could not do in the past. It is time they take over these programs and stop siphoning off city funds.

Now that would be reasonable!