One of the things I've learned over the last four decades or so is to always let a letter that's written in emotion sit for a while before sealing the envelope. I guess we can chalk this article up to one of those times that I didn't learn my lesson. My love for our county, our state and our country is high, which causes some pretty deep emotional reactions when I see us not taking advantage of the greatest democracy ever afforded mankind.
I want to start by saying that the job you have charged me with includes taking care of day-to-day problems you need help solving. It includes keeping you informed about issues and providing you the ability to see and evaluate those issues without spin from me.
It includes keeping up to speed on the major issues and making tough decisions on my own so that we have an efficient and effective government that serves this county well. It includes seeking input on key issues that may affect us and staying in sync with the pulse of the District so that we are truly represented on council. I will be and should be held accountable for doing my job properly. In fact, many eople send me a constant reminder. I have different people every month, if they don't get exactly what they want, or their email is not answered within 10 minutes, tell me that I am not going to get their vote next time around. That's all part of being accountable and doing the job I was sent here to do.
Having said that, don't we all have some level of responsibility? I've had more than five people in the last week tell me that our meetings are inconvenient, or that they weren't personally (I mean literally personally) told about meeting times of council. (Note: All meeting dates and times are posted on my website under the 'Useful Links' tab) I've been asked why we don't hold council meetings out in the district (since it's really difficult to go all the way downtown to a meeting). Last night in our council meeting we got blasted for not being transparent, and the public has no idea what is going on in our council meetings. The speaker was literally three feet from my video camera that tapes every public meeting I have attended. They are all online, and get very few views.
Last night was THE public hearing for this year's budget. It's the same every year. Times are always published and the press is always notified. To speak, you don't have to do anything but show up. No notice, no signups. Three people got up to speak about the budget. Two spoke about increasing funding to two good causes. One literally begged county council to raise taxes so that our employees can have a raise. He stated "if somebody is not willing to put $24 a year into this county I just want them to move out...it's time to step up to the plate and raise taxes".
Folks, is this your feeling about this budget? If not, why was this the only voice heard? Who is holding us accountable to speak our minds on these important issues? Which is more inconvenient, driving to a council meeting right after a hard day's work once a year, or paying $24 a year extra so our employees can have a raise?
As you can tell, this is very frustrating, especially seeing all that we accomplished last year when we had so many people engaged. We really can do great things and change the way your government does business, but it takes all of us working together and holding each other accountable. Having unused rights is no better than not having rights at all.
And speaking of rights, many of you are aware of nearly 180 candidates that were removed from the ballot this election cycle - basically deciding those 3 elections for you. Three Republican candidates in Spartanburg were removed from the June Primary ballot for a technicality (although they filed a Statement of Economic Interests form online as required, they did not file a SEI on paper the day they filed - Incumbents were not required to file the paper copy). Of the three, every single one of these would-be candidates filed an up-to-date SEI with the proper agency before their respective incumbents filed theirs. By the way, unless you work for the government in some way, the forms (that they did not provide a paper copy of) are BLANK.
Although I have made it a point to not publicly endorse any of the candidates in the county, in the interests of democracy and voters having a choice I feel compelled to get involved in this situation. That is why I'm asking you to find some of the petition drives and sign the petition for the candidate in your area to get them on the November ballot. You're not signing up to vote for them or even support them in any way. It's just a matter of right and wrong - and when there's a question, you should always side with the voters. Please, get involved and make this election cycle right again. If you need info on any of these petitions, please call and I'll try to get the info for you, or visit www.operationlostvote.org.