EDITORIAL FOR November 18-December 10, 2012
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof. When you think of politics youíre probably thinking about how wonderful it is that the election is finally over. Think again. If you live in Benson the election process is just getting started. Thatís because the nominating process for seats on the Benson City Council takes place between now and December twelfth.. If a person wants to run for a seat on the council or for Mayor now is the time to get your packet from the city clerk and get petitions signed by some registered voters. The completed petitions must be turned in by December 12 even though the primary election doesnít happen until next March. Well, you might say, ďWhy should I care who serves on the city council? Why not just re-elect the incumbents? Arenít they doing a lovely job?Ē
My answer to that would be to take a good look at whatís been going on. It would take hours to go into details but for starters lets say that the majority of the council members seem to think that they are our rulers and they donít care what most of us think. Iíll give you an example. Near the start of each council meeting thereís an agenda item known as the Call to the Public. Any citizen can address the council for five minutes. Typically several people speak to the council but nearly every comment or suggestion they make goes in one ear and out the other. With few exceptions they pay no attention to anyone, myself included. Iíve made several suggestions but every one has been ignored and itís just like talking to the wall. If you donít believe it, try it yourself.
In particular, our community leaders have contempt for the rights of property owners. All indications are that they are about to pass a comprehensive new zoning code that throws property rights to the wind. This is especially true of grandfather rights. You may have heard about the man who tried to replace a window in his house and the city wouldnít let him. I want to replace an old 1964 mobile home with a newer one and the city says no.
The city wastes money like itís going out of style. City staff members make vastly more money than they could ever make working anywhere else in this area. We have a City Manager on well over $2,000 a week plus a generous benefit package including use of a city owned car. The City Clerk makes well over $1,000 a week and so does the building official and several other staffers.
City officials live high on the hog while most of us taxpayers struggle to make ends meet. But ridiculous salaries are only the start of the waste.
The city recently bought a cement plant from a company headed by the former City Attorney and theyíve purchased two houses on Sixth Street that the city government doesn't have any use for. It appears that they bought the first house a year ago because the realtor for the seller used to be the mayor. And just last month they bought the second house for $50,000 cash and the only reason given was that a city ought to own a certain amount of real estate. In reality they are speculating with public funds.
The city spends $40,000 a year on advertising, much of it overpriced and ineffective. The city has been spending hundreds of dollars each year on jewelry and in August they bought over a thousand dollars worth of toy firemenís hats and Halloween bags. Last month they decided to buy nine I-pads, one for each council member and two for staff members at a total cost of $7,500. The stated purpose of the purchase was to save paper. But for the price of the I-pads, they could buy well over a million sheets of paper. The list of waste and extravagance goes on and on. Over the past twelve months the city has paid out well over $70,000, mostly in legal fees, to pursue a grudge against a former council member. Meanwhile we pay sales tax on our food, a tax that many cities donít collect. And we pay top dollar for water, gas and sewer fees.
Two of our council members have terrible conflicts of interest because they have family members who work for the city. One of them has both his father and his brother on the cityís payroll. Another member of the council hasnít been elected since 1999.
Thereís only one way to end this waste and indifference to our needs: We need to find some decent people who will run against the incumbents and we need to locate some good men and women as soon as possible. Maybe you know such a person. The person needs to be very intelligent, well educated, and live in Benson. School teachers often make good candidates. So do AEPCO employees and well known business owners. If you know someone who might be a good city council candidate maybe this would be a good time to talk to that person. Remember that nominating papers are now available. Wait until mid December and weíll be stuck with the same collection of turkeys for two more years.
Iím CAVE MANager Paul Lotsof and the opinions youíve just heard are mine and not necessarily anyone elseís. If youíd like a copy of this editorial or youíd like to express your opinions, go to the CAVE web site. Weíre at CAVEFM. Com. Thatís CAVEFM.com.