Demand car decal fee be halted

Published 10:01 am Saturday, August 29, 2009

In the last city election of 2008, a majority of the voters reflected a desire for a change in the way our city was doing things and, the direction we as a city were going. It’s true we have made slight personnel changes, while the selection of those changes has not altered our direction. It seems that our direction is still that of a follower with a lack of vision and a citizen-last mentality.

When I first read of the decision of Southampton County to do away with its city decals, I had a bittersweet reaction — sweet and joyous for the residents and citizens of Southampton County yet bitter for the citizens of Franklin. It was a bitter reminder of how the Franklin City Council ignores the will of its citizens the same way it did before the election. Back in 2008, The Tidewater News ran an opinion poll on the subject of decals, and those who participated overwhelmingly expressed their desire to do away with city decals.

I personally first raised this issue officially well over a year ago to the Franklin City Council while Bucky Taylor was still city manager and then again as a campaign issue in our last election.

The council members, including our mayor, were aware of the issue, the opinion poll and my concern for this subject.

I brought the issue up before the council again as June Fleming was then sitting as interim city manager, and she said that “she would bring it up to council for consideration for the next budget year”. Now she has announced that she will not be staying on as city manager, so we are expected to wait while we are still being unfairly charged for this outdated additional fee.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that doing away with the mandatory city decal does not relieve the citizens of their responsibility to pay their personal property tax on their vehicles. However, to charge citizens from $12 to $23 for a piece of plastic and force them to display it on their automobile is a mild form of legalized extortion. If you don’t give them your money, they will punish you with penalties in the form of tickets, cost of court, late fees or more. There is even a fine for failure to display the stickers. I don’t know anyone who would purchase and display one on their car if they weren’t in fear of the law.

Is it not enough that our City Council and its department heads spend our tax money the way they see fit, regardless of what we the people want or need? They vote not what the people want but what their collective wisdom decides. It’s high time that we the citizens begin to demand that our elected officials vote the desires of the people who elected them.

The city decals issue is just the latest reminder of how the citizens of Franklin must pay the cost because our leadership is still going in the wrong direction. They’re always last and lagging behind all the other municipalities around us.

We can thank this body of leaders for causing the citizens of Franklin to be paying the highest tipping fees in America for trash. They have voted to spend your hard-earned tax money, Camp Foundation donations and grant money for a train depot that wasn’t needed, a boat ramp that only few citizens use, Adkins Park (only a few citizens even know where it is) and, most recently, a farmers’ market that will sit dormant for most of the year. These are the choices that our City Council is voting for, while not voting to do away with our city decals.

When are we the going to demand our City Council do its job and represent our wishes?

For over a year I have lead a personal protest of civil disobedience by refusing to participate in this unfair practice of city decals, only to pay the price for not obeying the City Mafia with late fees and tickets.

Now, it’s time to bring this issue up again to our elected officials, to bring about relief and savings to all the citizens of Franklin by eliminating these unfair decals. Would you prefer that the money you spend for our police be used to solve crimes or stop drivers?

All city departments should work for the citizens, not for the city. We the citizens, including the elected council people, pay their salaries with our taxes every time we purchase anything in the city. I believe that we should demand that our City Council act immediately to eliminate our requirement to purchase and display a city decal.

I will be circulating a petition to present to our City Council at its next meeting to remind them of the collective desire of the citizens regarding this issue and demanding that they take a vote at that meeting to halt this unfair practice immediately against the citizens of Franklin.

I really could use everyone’s help and support who is interested in stopping this fee. Contact me at (757) 560-8405 because as long as they can get away with taking advantage of the cooperation of the citizens, the Franklin City Council has proved that they really don’t care to offer the citizens any relief from this additional fee.