Are you happy with the way tax money is being spent?

An editorial by Jennifer Sierra

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 9.03.37 PMThe answer is most people aren’t happy. Many citizens are saying, “Why isn’t the city buying a new fire truck instead of buying Red Bike Stations? Why are we putting money into a new river walk when we have children starving here? Why are we putting money into a park when we need streets paved? Why are they raising our taxes again?”

Politicians can’t please all of the people all of the time. If a politician sits in office long enough, he makes plenty of enemies. Citizens often act like spoiled children. Instead of compromise, they get mad if they don’t get their way. If a politician gets an entire group of people mad, say a union, a religious group or fire or police department, well they have just committed political suicide. We elect our politicians expecting them to make us happy with their decisions and influence. Citizens may not realize what their job is and what the politicians really need to do to represent all of us the best way possible.

It is not the job of an elected official to just show up at meetings and vote on issues. Their job is to listen to their constituents (the citizens they represent) and vote according to their wishes. It is the job of the elected officials to do research on issues and recommend the best way to approach issues before they vote on them. It is the job of a politician to go to other communities and get ideas on how to improve our communities. Elected officials are also responsible for going to higher government and opposing government agencies to get support for the issues the community supports and to campaign for grants to help the community’s causes.

It is our job as voters to look at the issues that affect our communities and decide if that politician represents our wishes and interests in the community. If you have a mind of your own, there is no way we can agree with any politician 100% of the time. You should agree with the person you elect most of the time, however. It is unreasonable to expect there will be a person you are 100% on board with. A politician should run to selflessly serve his or her community, not to serve his or her own special interests and ego. Look for someone that wants the best for their community and actually follows up with actions not just shows up to vote on issues. Look for people that consistently show up to support all of their local community activities not just during election season but all the time.

There have been many comments on some of our recent stories about how tax money is being spent on things like the Red Bike Program, the river walk or the fire truck. These recent developments in our communities are a result of grant money applied for on behalf of the cities of Dayton and Bellevue, Kentucky. There was no other way that money could have been used. The cities could not have applied for a grant for the river walk then bought a fire engine with it. They could not have been awarded a grant for the Red Bike program and then used it to pave the streets. The fire department applied for a grant for the hiring of new firemen. This grant, called the Safer Grant, cannot be used to get new street lights or hire new public works personnel.These grants were awarded for specific programs. If the funds don’t get used for that specific issue, another city will get awarded the money and the next time the city asks for a grant, they might not get it because they abused the system. The city would also have to repay the money if it was not spent on the program in which they applied for the grant.

Simply put, if we don’t apply for these grants, we lose out on money for things the cities need. Our cities need alternative forms of transportation to help the growing population have different modes of getting around so traffic isn’t so bad. Our cities invested in Red Bike and a river walk and used the grant money for these alternative forms of transportation. Our fire department is one of the busiest in Northern Kentucky. The fire department applied for a grant to hire more employees which there is a real need for. The fire department will find out within a few months if they have been awarded the grant or not.

It is unfair to expect your city council members to vote on a grant program the city could be awarded and then expect them to be able to spend that grant money elsewhere. It is part of their job to go out and find alternative ways to fund community improvements. Is your representative doing that or are they just showing up to vote “no” on programs they don’t understand?

It is also unfair to complain about taxes being raised when the cost of living and doing business keeps going up. The city is a business and in order for them to pay for things like fire trucks, the price of which goes up every year, they need to raise taxes. Not one person I know likes paying taxes and the more money you make, the more the government takes. But if the money is spent well and responsibly, everyone benefits and we end up living in a better community.


1 reply »

  1. Thanks for the informative editorial, and especially for the explanation of the benefits and limitations of Grants as they are applied for and awarded. That should clear up some misunderstandings on that topic, and encourage people to learn more about how grants and our local government are designed to function.

    However, I must respectfully disagree with a section regarding the duty of our elected officials. As both an elected official and as a “regular Joe” taxpaying citizen/voter, I have a strongly different opinion on your statement “Their job is to listen to their constituents (the citizens they represent) and vote according to their wishes.”

    True, an important responsibility of elected officials IS to listen to their constituents’ inputs. We must respect every citizen’s opinion and concern as valid, and be open-minded to all opinions offered.
    But if our elected officials simply listened to those who do speak up, then basing their votes only on that possibly small and sometimes self-serving bit of input could trump the cost & benefit to the entire city and all its citizenry.

    I personally agree that our responsibility as elected officials is to listen to all individual opinions and information. BUT we also have the responsibility to research and balance those against other (possibly different) perspectives, be open to opposing views, and MAKE OUR VOTES BASED ON WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CITY AS A WHOLE.

    Some of those decisions may impact and upset some particular citizens or groups (as you duly point out in the article), and many decisions have huge and long-lasting implications. A perfect example is the decision made a generation ago in Dayton to borrow tens of millions of dollars, displace hundreds of family households and demolish their homes, and build the floodwall to protect other neighborhoods in the city. Those elected leaders at that time made an extremely difficult decision based on the choices they had in front of them, and many citizens vehemently disagreed with them in public and in private. But their bold decision to build the levee was then (and years later still proves to be) the best decision for the city they were elected to serve.

    We must all, citizens and officials alike, learn about all sides of an issue. And after considering all aspects of an issue, some may still disagree with our elected officials’ votes (as is their right).
    But every elected official must be able to stand behind and explain their votes reasonably. And even if after explaining all our reasoning we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, we all have to accept that it’s alright to “respectfully disagree” and take responsibility for the results.

    If ever our elected officials are close-minded and make their decisions based strictly on their own personal hard-and-fast beliefs, or when their decisions are based on just a single person’s or small minority’s wishes, or whether they “like or dislike” the person or group making the request, then they are not fulfilling their sworn obligation as representatives of the ENTIRE community.
    Then again, if we as elected officials only make our votes based on “popular opinion” and whether it will help us get re-elected, we’re in this position for the wrong reasons and the community as a whole will soon suffer.

    After all, if all decisions were made based on just what the citizens wanted, why not just put everything up for public vote and not even need any “elected officials”?
    While that may sound like a good idea, consider what could happen if the public voted on an issue like whether or not to even have any taxes at all? That vote would probably reduce or even eliminate our taxes, but also would impact the city’s revenue which pay for the services our city as a whole needs.

    Again, thanks for the informative opinion piece. I hope it and my response help explain the often-difficult processes we all have to follow to be successful communities and true city leaders.
    Joe Neary


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