Bond issue timing wrong

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

At some time or the other in our lives, we hope and expect miracles. So it goes this Tuesday with the $12.3 million Selma bond issue.

The bond issue contains something for everyone, from curbs and gutters to a better library to a movie theater and repairs to Memorial Stadium to a riverside park.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. and some members of the Selma City Council have worked hard to put the bond issue together and to sell it to the voters of the city.

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But what we haven&8217;t had are, for the most part, straight answers to straight questions. When asked about the technology area of the bond issue, the mayor painted a picture of people with laptops all connecting to a city-owned and operated wireless network that would challenge Bell South and Charter Communications. He talked about policemen in cruisers with micro-computers able to chase down bad guys by linking to cameras that could spot criminals on the lam.

The reality, however, is that many people in Selma cannot afford the laptops because this is one of the poorest areas in the state. Many of these same people cannot afford health care or adequate housing or other necessities. They need jobs. Although job growth in Dallas County has been good, our county still ranks near the bottom in the number of unemployed people.

The reality is that many of the police cruisers are torn up and left sitting in the parking lot of a dilapidated public safety building, where recent rains leaked down on the evidence room; where the third floor is closed off because it is unstable; where workers have complained of getting sick from dust and mold.

The reality is that Selma doesn&8217;t have enough police officers to adequately protect the people. And, the police officers within the ranks need more training and better basic tools with which to work, instead of the cameras. These police officers need strong leadership, not micro-computers, and we hope and pray that strong leadership is on the horizon.

A library expansion would be so nice, but the library isn&8217;t falling down. Our public safety building is. How can we expect our policemen and policewomen to consistently work with a sense of pride when the environment they have to work in is well below even the average standards for such?

We need repairs on Memorial Stadium, and many teams use it. We also need downtown rehabilitation of buildings or at least for someone to raze the ones that are falling down, have facades that do not invite visitors to explore what is inside and generally leave those visiting our city with an impression that we could do better &8212; and we can.

We need curbs and gutters and street repaving. We need pride in this city.

We need to hold up our heads and remember that Selma, this city of less than

20,000, is internationally known for its leadership during one of the greatest struggles ever endured by human beings.

We need leaders who will forgo their own egos and quit making threats to those who do not agree with them all the time. We need the kind of sacrifice from leaders, which this city&8217;s history reflects. We need strength and not infighting. We need truth and not shades of it. We need openness and candor from elected officials.

A $12.3 million bond issue will not fix these things. It is not time to give a city council that cannot conduct themselves in a professional manner at a public meeting an open checkbook and a &8220;proposed&8221; list of projects to spend that money on.

The voters of this city are smart enough to see, while the intent of several of the projects is good, the timing of this bond issue is bad. Many of the projects are suspect, and this is not &8220;free&8221; money as the supporters of this bond issue have alluded to.