No Room for Taxpayers
Political Leaders take a Seat!
By: Pat Hunter
The Loudon County Commission May 19, 2008 workshop meeting was held in the new conference meeting room. As commissioners enjoyed their meal in the adjoining new break-room, the conference room began to fill with people.
The conference meeting room has a spacious table and new furniture including comfortable high-back plush chairs for officials and VIPs but this room was too small to safely accommodate the large crowd of concerned citizens. The conference meeting room has a 40 people capacity.
Purchasing and Maintenance Director Leo Bradshaw nervously counted seats and heads. The number of people quickly outnumbered the chairs and the crowd stood along the wall and spilled into the hallways.
Leo Bradshaw announced that only a limited amount of citizens could fit in the small conference meeting room while county commissioners looked on.
Before the meeting was about to start, Ken Wahl, a Greenback resident shared his concerns with Commissioner David Meers. Would commissioners consider changing the meeting location because of the small meeting room size and citizens that wanted to hear commissioners discuss matters on the agenda? But commission's plans remained unchanged.
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Austin Shaver, candidate for 2nd District Lenoir City Commissioner, inquired about moving the public meeting to another location to safely accommodate the citizens. Mayor Doyle Arp replied that the Annex was in use and the Loudon High School auditorium was under the Fire Marshall.
Loudon County School Board Chairman Bobby Johnson, Jr., mentioned that Loudon Elementary School Principle Jason Vance had offered the use of his school but his offer went ignored. Several people mentioned moving the meeting to the Loudon Elementary School. Instead, Mayor Arp tapped the table and began the commission workshop meeting.
About one-month earlier, on April 21, 2008, the Loudon County Budget Committee discussed plans to share information about the proposed FY 2008-2009 Budget. Budget Chairman Mayor Doyle Arp spoke about last year's budget workshop meeting held during the daytime at the Courthouse Annex meeting room. Commissioner Don Miller suggested that this year's proposed budget be presented to the full commission at the May 19, 2008 workshop meeting. Furthermore, if commissioners didnít finish reviewing the budget and other workshop items, another meeting would be re-scheduled. Why didn't the mayor's office find a suitable location for holding a workshop meeting to discuss the upcoming budget and other work items including a property tax hike and wheel tax? All are very important issues in the community. County officials were well aware of last year's well attended budget workshop, standing room capacity? Click Dog and Pony Show.
Many people attended this year's commission's workshop to hear or share education concerns, teacher pay raises, a new school for Greenback and to hear details about the proposed fiscal year 2008-2009 budget, 8-cent property tax hike and wheel tax proposals.
Ken Wahl, spoke his mind about county commissioners holding a meeting in a small conference room. Wahl said that commissioner's actions were "unconscionable" and "wrong." His commissioner is Bob Franke and he said nothing about changing the meeting location. Commissioner Franke is also on the Budget Committee. Why didn't Franke ensure that the meeting was held in a suitable location? He participated in the Budget Committee meeting when members were making plans to hold the budget workshop meeting. Wahl's comments were met with a round of applause while commissioners remained un-moved.
Commissioner Roy Bledsoe is the chairman of the Loudon County Commission not the Mayor. Why didn't Chairman Bledsoe step into his leadership role and insist on moving the meeting to another location or re-schedule another meeting? Not one commissioner spoke up on behalf of the citizens. Where was the compassion for the seniors or other taxpayers standing in the room or hallway for a long period of time?
Commissioner's silence is not golden but a rather bothersome trend of shutting out the public from the decision making process!