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Is It Too Much To Expect Aldermen To Attend Two Meetings Per Month?

Dear Editor,

In the December 5, 2017 Board of Aldermen meeting, the decision was made to hold bi-monthly board meetings. After following that process for only two months (February and March), three city officials have decided that our community’s many issues and their constituents’ concerns don’t warrant two nights of their time.  In the March 20th meeting, the board voted 3 to 2 to revert back to meeting once a month.

Alderman White, who has been adamantly opposed to bi-monthly meetings since its adoption, made a motion to go back to meeting once a month.  This was seconded by Alderman Folson. The board proceeded to discuss with several salient points being made as to why two meetings were needed.  One good example brought up is the fact that the city continues to discover contracts that have not been updated for years.  

During the discussion, no rational was given to reverting back to meeting once a month unless one considers the statement made by Mr. White to be viable.  He noted if Aldermen Foster and Coughlin didn’t “talk so much,” meetings wouldn’t take so long.  Since Ms. Folson also brought up the fact that the city is not following its own agenda policy, there is little wonder that meetings are lengthy because city government requires detailed discussions.  

The agenda policy was updated and adopted in October of 2017.  It stipulates that a Draft agenda must be completed 8 days before the next scheduled meeting with a Final agenda being available “no later than by 12:00 noon, CST, on the Thursday before” said meeting.  Apparently, our Aldermen – much less the public – are not getting agendas as stipulated in our policy.  So, one would hope that they feel the need to discuss action items in detail.        

One last question raised was whether or not the Board should wait until the new Alderman At Large was seated and could participate in this decision.  However before there was any meaningful discussion on this point, Mayor Gray went ahead and called for a vote.  Aldermen Folson and White voted “yes” while Coughlin and Foster voted “no.”  Mayor Gray broke the tie with a “yes: vote.  Unfortunately, our new Board member was not extended that courtesy.    

One suspects that most citizens of Water Valley want elected officials who are actively involved by discussing and debating issues impacting our town.  With Aldermen receiving $425 (before taxes) plus $110 monthly for “incidentals” per month, is it too much to ask them to attend two meetings each month?  

Personally, I don’t want a Board of Aldermen  comprised simply of “yes” men/women (and meetings that last only 15 or 20 minutes).  I want elected officials who are willing to work for us and move our community forward.  Mr. White owes Foster and Coughlin an apology because they take their responsibilities seriously.  Water Valley deserves better.

Charlotte Lane

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