SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
What joker decided January would be the best time to make me decide whether to seek another term on the Albion Town Council?
Did you hear about the researcher who declared January 17th to be the most depressing day of the year? By mid-January the holiday brightness has faded but the bills are just starting to come in, the days are still short, and people are just starting to falter in their New Year’s resolutions. It’s the perfect storm of blah.
Also, the third week in January is the coldest week of the year, and don’t we all love frostbite, ice injuries and high heating bills? Sure we do. Oddly, my proposal to move all of Albion, and rebuild it on top of New Orleans, has been rejected. My theory was that in a decade or so we’d be at sea level, which would be bad for New Orleans but good for Albion tourism.
As I write this it’s that dreaded January 17th, and sure enough a cold snap has been predicted for next week. I don’t know when you’ll be reading it: Starting two days from now, I have a month to decide whether to run for my third term, and I’m not going to finish this column until I’ve decided.
I actually considered doing a poll. A – Run for another four years. (Not literally – I can barely run for four blocks.) B – Retire while you’re still ahead. C – Stage a coup and declare yourself emperor.
I was worried people would vote C. I don’t want to be emperor. You have to foil assassination attempts, fight off secret agents, drop lackeys into pools of sharks ... Okay, the last would be kinda fun, but otherwise it’s a lot of stress.
Last election I didn’t have opposition, which I complained about at the time. Apparently someone was listening: I’ve heard that this year (remember, sign-up hasn’t begun yet), there are more people on the ballot than there are positions. That’s the way it should be.
I have to take into consideration the possibility that if I get defeated, no matter how worthy the opponent, I might do a John Boehner and cry in public, or at least pout. I’m still bitter about the time I ran for high school class council, and came in 9th out of 8 candidates. That just strung.
(“None of the above”, if you must know.)
It’s not about leading a party to victory, either. Sure, I have opinions on the big issues of the day, such as taxes, gun control, and whether anyone should have published Sookie’s “Jersey Shore” novel (No, a thousand times no!), but big ticket items don’t often come into play on a local level.
For instance, a lot of the spending is forced on locals by state and federal governments. Some people referred to the current Noble County Jail as a “Taj Mahal” when it was being built. (My “Circle of Hell” plan would have had ground water circling around a multi-layer dungeon until the trough reached the lowest level, where the murderers and drug dealers roamed. They’d have water, rats for food, and several roofs over their heads.)
But nobody at the local level had input into jail standards. If you think it was overspending, look to Indianapolis and Washington.
Those governments take money from you and me, then act like they’re doing you a huge favor if they give you half a cent out of your dollar back in the form of a federal grant. If you say no to that grant, do they give you the cash so you can work on what you think needs improved? No – they just hand that money over to some other community. If you complain about unfunded mandates, the answer is “well, you could always raise local taxes”. Because hey, raising local taxes is always the answer.
(If this was a national race, somebody would lift that part out and put up a big commercial that says, “Mark Hunter claims raising local taxes is always the answer! We can’t afford more Mark Hunter”.) Which is why I’m not going to run for President again.
Sorry, off on a rant. A Town Council does have some control over local funds, and since those funds are limited one of its jobs is to decide where the money gets spent. Last year that included a vactor truck, which is basically a huge shop vac that sucks unmentionable stuff out of unmentionable places. Let’s see Harry Reid debate that one in committee. Next year needs to be a fire engine, as the oldest one is 22 years old and is hitting its “nickel and dime us to death” years.
Still, despite the decisions Council members make on a weekly basis, I’ve had a fairly easy time of it over the last 7 years. We’ve got a great Town Manager and employees, and until recently the biggest problem was guiding economic growth in the right directions, and making sure everything’s kept up to date.
The economy will remain crappy for at least the next few years. As the economy goes south, so does the flow of tax dollars. Raising local taxes is not the answer; if we’ve learned anything, it’s that higher tax rates do horrible things to economies. The Federal government is still a zombie, brain dead and feeding on everything it touches, not yet realizing that the end is near. The state government has mostly figured out overspending is bad, and often responds by cutting the money it gives to local governments.
The local government is us.
Here’s my thinking: Dropping out of the Town Council now would be like a cruise ship employee who parties on his days off, then quits at the beginning of his work shift. Okay, not the greatest comparison. But if I’m going to be there during the relatively easy years of a good economy, I owe it to the people of Albion to be there and make the hard decisions during the upcoming Very Bad Times.
So, I’ll run again, and it’ll be up to the voters to decide whether I’m the best person to sit in that chair in January of 2012. Maybe they’re the ones with the hard job.
Guess I’d best be off to the Clerk’s office.