Every now and then I need to ask you to look behind the curtain and examine what's really happening with your Town. We have reached one of those times again.
Denied a buck
Sadly, this week the Town Board voted not to give the Golden Age Center (GAC) kitchen staff the equivalent of a dollar per hour raise. I voted for it. Bev Kinney voted for it. But the others didn't.
The raise was an idea presented to us by the leadership of the GAC after much consideration and effort to persuade the board. But still, the board voted no.
The excuse? Me.
The facts were all right there before them. They had months to research and explore the issue on their own by visiting the GAC, which they did not. We even had the GAC leadership there to make their case and seniors from the community explain in great deal why they need the raise to retain staff and supply meals. Yet they still voted no.
Worse yet, the board refused to take responsibility for their vote. Instead they blamed their decision on—you guessed it—me. I had not taken the time to prepare them. I had not scheduled enough meetings to discuss the matter. Like they did with the farmers and others, they talked a good game. But when pushed to vote, they did not come through.
Instead, they relied on one of the flimsiest “dog ate my homework” excuses ever. Don’t blame me for my vote, blame Nate. Nonetheless, let’s talk about meetings.
The red herring
A red herring is a debate technique where you distract from the relevant or important issue. It comes from the idea that bloodhounds would be distracted from the scent of a red herring and lose their trail. Here, the red herring is the meeting excuse.
I’m not sure how you can complain about a lack of meetings when you agree to the meeting times. That’s right. The board asked for a meeting on August 7, the first Monday of the month. I gave it to them. This is our normal meeting time. It’s a time that I keep regular so that the press and the community can be there. We all agreed to the August 7. And we all knew this discussion and vote—for the GAC buck—was coming.
But still they throughout that red herring of“no meeting” even while they sat in a meeting with the issue before them and refused to vote. All of this forces us to ask, “if they want you distracted, beyond their vote against the GAC, what do they want you distracted from?”
Clear cutting in secret
Last week, a councilman suddenly wanted us to approve the spending of thousands of dollars to manicure a strip of property in a nice neighborhood. And another councilman eagerly signed off via email to approve thousands in additional spending without debate. The same councilman, mind you, who refused to give a buck raise to kitchen staff.
On his own, the Councilman already ordered Parks Department to raze the land, cutting down over a dozen trees and lots of foliage. The Town Board was unaware of these actions until a citizen came in to complain—rightfully so—about the removal of this natural barrier. It makes me wonder if there are other strange actions going on that remain undiscovered.
Why did the councilman order the removal of these trees? No one can tell me. It's bizarre. And he made the mess, both on the property, and for the Town Board. For names and details of this fiasco, watch the videos of the workshop and Town Board meetings on the Grand Island News Facebook page.
I refused to sign off on the coverup.
I said no. I did not want to jump from one problem to another. I wanted to weigh our options at a regularly-scheduled meeting so the public could be aware of this issue. Instead, the councilman under scrutiny tried to demand a quick meeting when no one was watching. I instead placed on the agenda for our regular scheduled meeting so we could all see and understand the issue. He wasn’t there.
So instead of debating how this happened and what to do next, we got a one-sided letter on meetings and a refusal to fund the GAC. It’s frustrating. And I’m not the only one who’s frustrated. You saw it in the faces of the GAC leadership who were there on Monday.
Old ways are out.
I refuse to conduct business the way the old board did. No one can honestly say that our community is not more informed today about town matters than before I was Supervisor. And that is because there has not been and there will not be meetings when no one watching. There are no more jobs reserved for friends and family. No more attacks on homeowners and small businesses without justification. And no more spending on the sly without consequence.
You may not like my decisions, but I’m proud you know about them. Let’s examine my record. In a little more than a year and a half, despite a Town Board fighting me every step of the way, we have preserved hundreds of acres from development. We stopped the unfettered advance of apartments and developers and revised the master plan. We have gained millions of dollars of investment and grants for Grand Island. Plus, we have explored new technologies to help and improve our community.
Let’s examine the record of my detractors: seemingly endless reckless motions regarding alleged wrongdoing that amount to nothing; attempts to block millions in grant money; attempts to nitpick development projects; debates regarding resolutions that they already signed off on and failed to read; secret votes; opposition for a community center morphing into and attempt to railroad down our throats with a rushed RFP; and a multi-million-dollar shed in Veteran's Park that almost no one even knew about until it was half built.
I’m proud of my record. I wonder how they feel about theirs.
This must end.
My election as Supervisor upset the apple cart. I know that. But now we have a choice. You can help me make apple pie or keep throwing apples.
The entire region is looking to Grand Island. They are excited. We recently conducted interviews for the Code Enforcement position. Amazingly, many of the applicants said, “We want to be part of all the great things happening here.” It’s a sentiment I hear over and over again as I visit with officials and citizens across the region.
And the change you see on Grand Island is a growing movement. Not long ago, I was an outsider with ideas that Town Hall insiders snickered at. Today, there are thousands of citizens with me. They might not always agree with me, but they recognize that I’m trying my best to make Grand Island better. And they want to be part of that.
You, the sixth councilman, can also be with me. You might even stand up to take my place when I’m gone. But it’s certain that many people on Grand Island are sophisticated enough to see through the spin and political games. They can feel the difference between the progress we are making now and the way things were before, and they want to tap into that energy.
And hopefully, very soon, you will give me a team that’s prepared to work instead of making excuses. We need a team with the judgment and good sense to come prepared for meeting and ready to vote—not grandstand.
In November, please elect a Town Board that can make help me make those pies. All of these apples are too good to waste.
With highest regards,