It was great to watch council compromise

Published 4:43pm Thursday, September 19, 2013

By Jay Sowers

The Selma Times-Journal

 

Compromise. Remember that word? It’s one of those three all-important lessons we all learned in kindergarten: Treat others as you would like to be treated, don’t eat the crayons, and learn to compromise with others.

In a time of constant political bickering and threats of governmental shutdown steal headlines across the country, it’s nice to know that some in government haven’t forgotten the importance of compromise.

Earlier this week, the Valley Grande City Council convened for their regular meeting on the third Monday of the month. This meeting carried a little more importance than others as council members were hoping to look over, and vote on, the city’s operating budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The meeting was short — 34 minutes on the dot — but it became clear that a decision would not be reached on the proposed budget Monday evening, and that the members needed more time to look over everything included in the expenses.

Mayor Wayne Labbe, following the suggestion of several council members, then called for a special work session to be held the following evening at 7 p.m.

During that work session, Labbe explained on Monday, he would work through the budget — line-by-line — with the five member council, until a compromise was reached on each item and then on the budget as a whole.

Compromise.

It still exists. It can get messy, it can get loud, and it is known to get tense. But it exists.

Tuesday’s meeting ran over two hours, and it had everything: There was a white board and dry erase markers used to illustrate past budget expenses, there were arguements, and there was a five minute break the members used to smoke a cigarette, stretch their legs and clear their heads.

The topic of money to be used for capital improvements — specifically money to be set aside for further improvements to Valley Grande Sports Complex — was brought up three times before the five minute break.

Each time the conversation followed a similar trend: Labbe proposed $100,000 for unspecified capital improvements and $50,000 to be earmarked for the sports complex, opposing sentiments would be stated, and upon a vote the council would be deadlocked.

The meeting should have died there. It should have stalled. Fists should have bounced off the table, teeth should have been clinched and stares should have been exchanged.

Luckily for the people of Valley Grande — and one reporter covering his first budget negotiations on deadline — none of that happened.

Thirteen minutes after the five minute break, compromise happened.

Mayor Labbe and council members agreed to earmark $50,000 for the sports complex improvements. Any additional capital improvements would have to be approved by the council before costing the city and its tax payers.

Neither side walked out with exactly what they wanted, but some could say they got something even better.

They got a compromise.

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