Property purchase not solution for city

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

To the Editor:

In a public display of fiscal responsibility and political courage, my colleagues Mrs. Jean Martin and Dr. Geraldine Allen cast the fourth and fifth decisive votes against spending $1 million that the city does not have for land that we do not need for a purpose we do not know.

However, lest anyone think that the land purchase has been defeated, rest assured that Mayor Perkins will continue to appease, cajole and threaten council members until a majority vote in favor of the land purchase.

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This fiscal year, the city of Selma is headed for financial and social chaos. Financially, sales tax revenue account for approximately 60 percent of the city’s total General Fund Revenue.

In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, the city received about $20,000 less in sales tax revenue than was projected for the year.

Sales tax revenues, while up for the entire year, were down from a year ago in three of the last four months.

Despite this trend, the mayor presented – and the city council, almost without one question – passed a budget this year which projects a $200,000 increase in sales tax revenue over last year.

With a $310,000 judgement, not covered by insurance, against the city, another $35,000 expense, not covered by insurance, as a result of another suit, an increased budget over last year, it is irresponsible for the city to borrow $900,000 to buy land whose use even the mayor does not know.

Besides that, the city already owns 50 acres of prime land off Highway 80 West which could be used for a cemetery, park or school.

Not only does the city face financial chaos in the coming year, it is being engulfed by social chaos as muggings, robberies, shootings and thefts continue to increase. If you even remotely consider yourself a person of vision and progress, you’ll find it ever increasingly difficult to stomach the problems that plague Selma. An abysmal lack of vision and creativity and a cancerous void in leadership are steady contributors to our mediocre state and impending death as the major city in the Black Belt.

Take a look at our condition. The mayor is undermining the school system by making decisions the superintendent and school board should make. Nearly one-third of our people live in free or subsidized housing. Crime has reached epidemic proportions. The city is steadily losing population. Businesses are closing, shutting down or laying off. Why? Lack of creativity in the city’s leadership and an electorate that has grown apathetic, complacent and miseducated about how cities work and why business must thrive.

If the electorate ever wakes up and becomes politically astute and educated enough, there are plenty of questions it should ask city government. Only when the people ask tough questions will mediocrity quake in its boots and our political leadership be forced to speak with authority instead of engaging in Nero-like exercises – fiddling while Selma burns.

The climate must be made right for business development. Re-education must take place to illustrate that business is the means to achieve growth and prosperity, not handouts from government. Cities do not grow when a primary function of government is to take six policemen away from police duties and have them go into neighborhoods to protect campaign workers telling people where to go to get more handouts.

City Hall seems too concerned with micro-managing the day to day operations not only of city government, but every facet of the city’s life. Cities do not stand still and maintain the status quo – they either get busy growing or get busy dying. It’s about time we get ourselves some leadership in City Hall that gets busy thinking.

Cecil Williamson