Budget time should not be a lonely time for elected officials

By J.D. Clark | Published Saturday, September 29, 2012

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This Monday, Oct. 1, new budgets will go into effect as our county and our cities begin new fiscal years.

For months prior to this day, our county and municipal leaders have been hard at work deciding how our tax dollars should be spent over the next year. Each leader approaches this process with a different style, views tax dollars with a different belief and ends up with a different outcome.

For me, the choice was a simple one: do what I’ve been doing for the past three years. Since I became mayor of Chico in 2009, it has been my civic commitment and my moral obligation to be a responsible steward of my community’s tax dollars.

On Monday, we start a new budget that is nearly 16 percent less than last year’s budget. We are spending less while doing more. Since I became mayor, we have cut administrative spending by 30 percent, yet we are completing more streets and infrastructure projects than ever before. It’s all about reprioritizing our spending. When should the administration of work ever cost more than the work itself? In Washington, D.C., that logic might make sense, but in Chico, Texas, that dog won’t hunt.

Obviously, this is a budget of which I am proud, and it is a spending policy that I love to explain to my neighbors. When the public hearing for the new budget rolled around, though, not a soul darkened the door.

An unattended public hearing is not an unusual event. In our municipal and county governments, public hearings are held all the time with little to no feedback from any members of the public.

Folks, show up to these meetings and hearings! People everywhere are aware of the shortcomings of our state and federal budgets, yet precious little is said about our municipal and county budgets. We are making decisions that affect you and your family every day, and we need your opinions, even when those opinions aren’t the same as ours.

Show up to these meetings, and listen to what we are doing. Learn about our budgets, and see how we are spending your tax dollars. Speak up when you like what we are doing, but speak louder when you don’t.

I didn’t run for a public office so I could sit in a meeting room by myself. I ran so that I could work for you and with you.

You can depend on your elected officials to make wise decisions, but I depend on you to hold us all accountable.

When it comes to our tax dollars, fiscal responsibility should not just be something we deserve; it should be something we demand.

J. D. Clark is mayor of the city of Chico.

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