Letter: Open government owed to residents

I would like to address this letter to the public. I was raised in the belief that government is employee of the people. We the people pay their checks. I am not talking about just our federal government, but I am talking about our local one.
There is a small group of people, myself included, that are fed up with the appearance of how things are/were being handled and run. So, we put forth effort on getting an economic development group started. This branched off of a collection of contractors who vented some major frustrations. This in mind and doing major homework we went to the help of the state economic development department. This state department will help with assistance in money, to review of our utilities, surveys, tax credits, and Gov. Ritter has put some major money toward this on a statewide level. So far, to my knowledge, our county has not looked at any stimulus money, or toward the money our state has put forth … close to $110 million. Nowhere in our discussions with the state has the issue of money for these services come up. Their service is free. They will even help find small companies looking to relocate in a place like ours. We also liked the idea of having an outside group look at our needs and what is important. This way, there are no hidden agendas, or push for personal gain. Now we have been accused of “reinventing the wheel.” I totally disagree. The old wheel is broke, as the reputation of being self-serving, and wants to take years to get this process going. This town doesn’t have years, nor do most of its people who want to live here. Who is to gain from “taking our time?” It must be those who have other ways of supporting their lifestyle.
One of the statements at our last meeting was that this effort to get an economic development group together “caused heartburn, and high blood pressure.” Isn’t that sad? The effort to make something better causes such distress? This statement was made because the BBOC organization feels that we are not being helpful. Where were we when they were an organization and looking for input? I can tell you from a personal stand … I wrote an e-mail and offered my input and help. I never received a phone call, a note, not a word. This e-mail was sent out 7-24-08. One must ask why? One might ask how many other sent in ideas and also were not acknowledged?
I pose some questions to the public that you should ask as well. Why is there anything but an aggressive approach on economic development? Why are the people on these boards appointed, and usually the same people? Why are there concerns about how long it must take, instead of posthaste? Why are we not taking all the free help that we have? What is wrong with this process? We can have surveys done with little to no expense with the help of colleges, not to mention the state economic development department. Why is there secured grant money and who will benefit from it? Who is getting a paycheck from that money?
In my mind and in my own heart I have little to no faith. I left here after the big bust in 1985, and this town is in worse now than it was then. Here are some other questions that lead to creditability issues. Why does the county hire people who filed and won lawsuits against the county? Why did the county condemned, purchase property out by the airport, due to a FAA concern, and now have a county employee living in it? Why are there double standards for business as well? We have one business on the highway that is very community orientated and offers a good service to this town. Yet they were told to clean up their site, yet there are others that you can’t see the building because it looks like a dump. Why is it there are old houses in this town that have not been lived in for 20-plus years, yet they are not condemned? Could it be we are not in need of any more county housing yet?
This is just a couple of items that are a thorn in my side that cause me heartburn and high blood pressure. Accountability and transparency should be done with pride because you work from the heart, not the pocketbook. I could go with a long, long list, but what good will it do? Unless you the public get involved, there will be no change. Unless you the public start at a grassroots effort and do it with your voice, your action, your involvement there can be no griping, and complaining. If you like things the way they are … with layers upon layers of taxes, impact fees, use tax, county tax, permitting fees, new school, and a government who feel the people work for them, and not the other way around, then stay at home, don’t do a thing, stick your head in the sand and hope for the best. Look how good that has worked for you. Gas and oil are not coming back because of the added price of all the extra money grabbing. Is it too late? Maybe. Can we make a change? Yes, with your effort and your voice. If there were a need for a tea party it is against our own county government first. Or, maybe you liked your increase on your taxes, not having work, and a negative attitude toward growth.
If you want to help and join up, I can be contacted at the number and e-mail below. I am willing to give a focused attention on movement forward without taking “years.” So are some other people. We are willing to do this, but only if we have the public’s honest support and effort. If not, we will disband and move on … there won’t be a choice. We want a public effort in economic development, not just a select few, and handpicked people. We want a voice in where we go, not told where we are going. We want effective growth that supplies a future for other generations, something for children to come back to. We want an open-door policy, no closed-door meetings, or anything erased from minutes or agendas. We want to honor agreements, not knit a web of how it will best serve employees of the county, or other private institutions.
Michelle Hale