I have just returned from the City Council meeting where they voted to raise our property taxes again for the second time in two years.

This was not a surprise. We saw it coming and we heard some disturbing comments over the weeked which we decided to hold back. We held them back because we wanted to see if the council members would prove those statements wrong. They didn't.

Last weekend, it was brought to our attention that local lobbyists were caught laughing at an event about the tea party bringing people to the city council chambers. They said, "They can bring 1,000 people down there and it will not make a difference. The deal is done."

It appears those lobbyists were right.

Here's what the lobbyists and our city leaders do not understand.

Scott Rasmussen, an independent pollster, stated recently, "The Tea Party Movement is not a flash in the pan, as many have assumed. Nor is it a movement of racist rednecks and ignorant boobs, as its detractors have crudely suggested. To the contrary, it is an authentic grassroots movement of concerned American citizens demanding to be heard by an out-of-touch political establishment. Their concerns are real and their issues are legitimate."

When you showed up last night and voiced your concerns one after another in a professional and dignified way - you let the city leaders know the Tea Party Movement has come to town. While we have focused most of our efforts on the federal level, it is now apparent we must spend some time with our city leaders too. They evidently do not understand their job has changed because the economy has changed. We do not have money to burn and if we are cutting at home, they should be cutting too.

Candidly, I wanted to poke my eyes out a couple of times as I watched the questions asked and people scurrying to find the answers and then watching them explain that we can't do this because of this and because if you do this this will happen and then you have this and if do that then we have to do this. I understand why the city council members caved!! They could not get a straight answer from anyone. And they call us "ignorant boobs!"

There are many complex issues to this budget and many moving parts that even the city council members could not understand. We demand and expect that the budget process and the way our money is spent should be simplified and transparent. It should not require 4 rows of people on hand to explain to the city council what the numbers mean. Nor making calls during the meeting here and there to find out what the numbers mean.

The final vote was 11-7 and here are the votes for 2010-557 (Budget)

Yea: Corrigan, Fussell, Gaffney, Holt, Hyde, Jones, Joost, R. Brown, Shad, Webb, D. Brown

Nay: Bishop, Clark, Crescimbeni, Johnson, Lee, Redman, Yarbough

Please contact those who voted No and thank them.

Please contact those who voted Yes and ask them to put into writing Why they did? They should be willing to do that and if they don't it will tell you alot about them.

So what now? A plan is in the works for continued relationship building and accountability with our city council and other city leaders.

In the meantime, if you have experience in running an organization and have been a success at your endeavors, we encourage you to consider running for city leadership. We will not be focusing on those races until the November election is done. When November 3 hits, we will be looking at local political opportunities and encouraging leaders to stand up and help us fix the financial mess we are presently wallowing in.

If we do not find a way out of the tax and spend mentality, we might as well put a "Closed for Business" sign on the interstate -- because no business in their right mind would want to build a business here.

We wish the city leaders had heard from Rick Santelli who recently ranted again. We're with you, Rick!

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Comment by Patricia M. McBride on September 30, 2010 at 10:26am
And Robert, they put up some of your recommendations and then, decided they couldn't do it because of one thing or another that binds the city. That is scary as your recommendations sounded good. You might want to look at the video of yesterday (and by the way, the city council members never checked out when they left at 3 AM, so I guess they get paid for 3 AM to 11 AM when they reconvened?
Comment by Patricia M. McBride on September 30, 2010 at 10:24am
I know you do Robert, and I want to thank you for your efforts. You were terrific, but the lobbyists won out the day. I still wonder what these city council members get in return?
Comment by Patricia M. McBride on September 30, 2010 at 10:22am
Another thing we had better stop if it gets tried is the take over of the equestrian center by the city. Webb mentioned the city could run it for less money. Not true. The first thing they would do is have another union group running it that would mean another contract and more leaching sucking on the taxpayers blood. Privatize, privatize, privatize. Time do get out from under the bus drivers and let the equestrian center be run by a private party for profit and let them deal with the hiring of people. Our city is not capable of doing much of anything and doing it efficiently.
Comment by Robert Hutcherson on September 30, 2010 at 10:21am
I was the only mayoral candidate in attendance and voiced, along with my wife, our strong opposition to the 9% property rate hike at the City Council meeting. I also spoke out in opposition to last year's 9% property rate hike. Think we can use some people in office who understand Efficiency and Effectiveness? Which mayoral candidate speaks for you?

Here's a copy of my speech:

City Council Speech 9-28-2010 – Mayoral Candidate Robert Hutcherson “Hutch”
Council President, members of the council, my name is Robert Hutcherson, residing at 12346 Peach Orchard Dr. in Jacksonville. I am a father, military veteran, small business owner, taxpayer, concerned citizen and mayoral candidate.

I am here tonight to Plead with you NOT to raise the millage rate and taxes for another consecutive year on our citizens, especially when they have been severely hit by this turbulent economy. Their budgets are suffering from increased prices of basic goods and groceries, higher healthcare premiums, higher utility rates – electric & water, the doubling of our garbage fees, educational cost increases and a 9% property tax increase you approved last year.

I understand you have been given the unpopular task from the mayor’s office to cut His Proposed Budget or sign off on His Tax Increase. I understand how hard it is to cut a budget, but citizens have to do it, therefore, IT CAN and SHOULD BE DONE. The Voice of the Citizens speak loudly with the many signatures we obtained in a few hours prior to Sunday’s game.

“We The Citizens of Jacksonville” are the customers and not the servants, “We The Citizens of Jacksonville” cannot afford another tax increase on Our Personal Budgets. We are tired of all the Wasteful Spending Projects like the Courthouse, Shipyards, Landfill, etc. City Hall needs to simply make the necessary adjustments and tighten its belt.

City Hall first needs to determine what truly are the core functions of city government, fund them and get out of the business of the rest. Second, evaluate every program as to its effectiveness. What is its purpose and benefit to the Citizen’s Quality of Life. Third, evaluate how efficiently each program is ran. Most governmental programs and processes are not lean and therefore an opportunity to cut spending. In Summary: Fund the Right Core Programs and Run them Efficiently! We Want a Lean Government, Representing “We The Citizens”.

Mr. Webb, you mentioned that you were all ears, so here are a few recommendations to prevent the tax increase:
• 10% Reduction in the Mayor’s Office ($.2M) – .2
• 5% Reduction to Central Operations ($1.1M) – 1.3
• 4% Reduction in Fire & the Sheriff’s Office - in operational efficiencies such as fuel purchases & vehicle maint. options, resource utilization, etc - ($6.9M) -8.2 ($14.8M) – 23
• 10% Reduction in the Children’s Commission - ($2.2M) – 25.2 – Mayor’s Book Club, Brewer Center
• Keep Jax Journey Funding at the 2010 level instead of the proposed increase $7.6-12.3M ($4.7M) – 29.9
• Keep Citywide Activities at 2010 level instead of the 30% proposed increase $19.5 to 30.5M ($11M) – 40.9
• 1.9% Reduction in Library Services by eliminating DVDs/CDs you can get a retail outlets - ($.8M) – 41.7
• 17% Reduction in the JEDC – ($2M) – 43.4
• Eliminate the Human Rights Commission – the state handles those issues - ($1.3M) – 45
• And finally, nothing personal, but in the spirit of limited government, downsize city council positions from 19 to 15 (21%) by eliminating 4 At-Large seats for the next term – each district will still be represented and one At-Large seat will serve as a tie breaker - ($2M)

45 Million is only 4.5% of the budget and what is needed to avoid the tax increase, and believe me, I bet most of the Citizens of Jacksonville have carved out a lot more than 4.5% of their budgets to make ends meet. So why can’t our city leaders do the same. Once again, I plead with you NOT raise the millage rate and taxes for another consecutive year on our citizens. I guarantee you that if blessed with being the next Mayor, I would never present a budget to council that calls for a Tax increase and puts you in this position – Guaranteed. Be a True Representative of the Citizens and Do the Right Thing! Thank you

Comment by Joan C. Hall on September 30, 2010 at 10:16am
i hate to say it , but what's done is done and now we have to get to work and stop this runaway train. I think we have to alert the voters to what is coming in November. We cannot allow these power hungry people to sit and gloat for an extra 6 months. Who knows how much damage they are planning to do in that time.
Comment by Patricia M. McBride on September 30, 2010 at 10:07am
Right on Billie. I thought I typed it is NOT conspiracy theory and once it went up, I realized I had left the not out. It happened and we know it happened. They ignored the people and did the deals. What I wonder is what was in it for them?
Comment by FCTP on September 30, 2010 at 10:04am
You are not paranoid. Deals did in fact happen behind the scenes. It's normal government practice. Just wonder what those deals were and how much it cost to buy their votes or to pretend they were on our side.

We know it happened. It happened in Washington and they learned how to do these deals in their home towns.
Comment by Patricia M. McBride on September 30, 2010 at 9:59am
Joan, I have to agree with you. Remember Nancy Pelosi did that. They counted votes and if they had enough, they let those in jepardy vote NO to save themselves in their districts. We had 5 that voted no initially, and they are solid as they are always the ones who fight for the people of the city. The other 2 votes were great, but they already knew there would be enough votes to pass it anyway, so I have to wonder as well. It is really conspiracy theory as these folks seem to idolize the Washington crowd.......I can still here Webb saying "It is the right thing to do". Sound like anyone else you know?
Comment by Joan C. Hall on September 30, 2010 at 9:55am
I guess I'm paranoid but I wonder if the Council drew straws as to who would vote yea and who would vote nay? Conspiracy Theory? Maybe but can you blame me?
Comment by Patricia M. McBride on September 30, 2010 at 9:05am
Valarie, in the poll taken by one of the news stations here in town, 93% were against a tax increase, so I expect there are a few people who think raising taxes on the unemployed is a swell thing to do. And would assume the "camelot" city workers are fine with it as are police, fire, city bus drivers and all those folks on commissions, committees and the city council (keeps the big bucks rolling in for them while others eat beans and hotdogs trying to support them if they can afford that). A comment on the times union yesterday from someone said she had about $100 a week to spend on food for her family, and thanks to the city council yesterday, that amount will now drop to $75.00. When was the last time any of them had to deal with only $75.00 to feed a family? Especially with all the increases in food prices. It isn't going to help much that someone can put the fire out if the people died of starvation before they got there.

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