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Established Elected Officials Should Be Generous With Their Knowledge, Experience

Dear Editor,

The Board of Aldermen meeting on August 7 to discuss the proposed budget demonstrated that transparency in our city government will not come easily.  As in previous meetings, Mayor Hart was less than forthcoming to questions on details raised by the new members of the Board.  

An example occurred during the discussion of line items related to specific departments.  There were multiple instances in which a new alderman inquired as to the number of employees in a particular department.  Each time, the mayor deferred to the secretary, who provided an approximate number.  This was hardly an unnecessary question as budgets involve salaries for city employees. 

How could the mayor, who asserted he meets routinely with department heads, not be prepared to answer this most basic question?             

As the discussion turned to the fire department, it was noted that it was significantly understaffed.  When questioned as to whether the proposed funds would cover the hiring of needed staff, the mayor’s response was simply “don’t worry, we can handle it.”  When another question was posed asking exactly how that number would cover additional staff, he was again told not to worry about it with no further clarification.  

Our city officials were specifically elected to “worry about it.”  It is their job to understand the details of our existing contracts, expenditures, and employees.  This unwillingness to provide details and discuss in depth is disrespectful not only to the new Aldermen but to the citizens who attend these meetings.  We are interested and want to understand specifics related to local government operations.      

The new faces in our city government reflect not only changes in our city.  They also reflect the expectations of the electorate for greater transparency.  While greater transparency probably won’t take us back to the days of the 15-minute Board meeting, it would definitely result in shorter meetings and less frustration for everyone.   

So to our established elected officials, please be generous with your knowledge and experience.  The new Aldermen are not kids you watched grow up or “newcomers” to our town.  These people are now your co-workers and deserve your respect.  Simply providing more details to the Board (as well as the public), BEFORE meetings, would be beneficial for all of us who make Water Valley our home.   

Thank you.

Charlotte Lane    

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