SMITH: Accountability and transparency are needed

Published 8:08 pm Wednesday, January 3, 2018

By JAMES G. SMITH | Guest Columnist 

We are entering a brand new year, and, hopefully, a new beginning for the mayor and council to work out their differences and work as a team for the good of Selma.

If 2017 is the model, I’m unsure what a youth council could learn except how not to run a city government. Of course, I’m speaking of the youth council proposal to enlighten young people in the affairs of city government.  One would hope for a better study model than what we have been experiencing.

I hear the calls for optimism, and optimism is a wonderful motivational tool to excel and succeed. Those of us old enough can recall several periods of optimism and high expectation in Selma.

Remember the Committee of 100 responsible for “Hammermill,” “Thumbs Up Selma,” renovation of the “St. James,” “ Beechcraft” and etc. as a few examples of periods of high expectations.

We have had individuals who tried to lift Selma and make it into a thriving community. Remember Larry Striplin, Eunice Walker Johnson, Richard Scrushy and Julius Talton to name a few. There is no doubt one person can make a difference; but to change the dynamics of Selma, I believe it will take a community effort. Selma can be whatever its people chooses and works to become or limits itself to. For starters, Selma needs a city government that works.

It appears Selma’s woes continue to pile up. Complicating all the other issues is the fact Selma needs money according to those in power. Recently things looked so bleak, there was a proposal to consider a regressive sales tax increase.  As if business in Selma wasn’t bad enough already, what do you think a sales tax increase would produce? Thankfully and wisely that proposal was withdrawn at a later session

We need accountability and transparency in all forms of government including the city.

Personally, I would prefer to see a council-city manager form of government to handle the affairs of the city.

It would place management in the hands of a professional instead of an elected official. The business of management would be conducted by an expert in the field of business management completely void and neutral of politics.

It would remove city management from the whims of petty political aspirations and pressures. A city manager could focus on efficiency and delivering a certain level of services at the lowest possible expense. A manager would submit an annual budget proposal with options and recommendations to the council. Also, the manager would act as a technical advisor to the council on overall government operations.

There is no intent to disparage anyone now elected to serve but rather to separate management from politics. However, it would take an act of the legislature to change the present system in place. Therefore, I would say chances of that happening are slim and next to none.

Just as the swamp in Washington, it is too entrenched by politicians to expect changes.