City doesn’t listen to councilman, its residents

Published 9:04 am Friday, December 2, 2011

by Don Blythe

I was elected by the people to be their voice and to open up our city government from the back-door politics. Well, it is not working.

The City Council doesn’t want input from the citizens. Ask them to form a committee and put citizens on the committee, and they shy away from this. This was seen in redistricting our city as well as not forming a committee with citizens to help pick the new city manager.

This was really true with the charter amendments. Instead of taking our time and not being in a rush and including ideas from all citizens, they rushed through the changes, some geared to silence current council members, for their own benefit and time line.

The citizens needed to vote on this instead. Even Steve Stewart, publisher of The Tidewater News, saw this (“On charter, don’t get carried away,” Nov. 27). They were not fooling anyone by pushing their agenda and leaving out the wishes of the people.

Do not get me wrong. After careful study, allowing others to submit ideas, and time for the citizens to vote on this, I would be happy and satisfied by the results.

The City Council has pushed the people away and are doing things their way. Also, they do not really want your input. The five minutes they give you to address them is at times not long enough.

Also, as long as you agree with them you are fine. If you disagree with them or city staff, then they tell you to change the subject or sit down. What has happened to freedom of speech?

What really scares me is taking our rights away from us as city council members to fight for your rights. The city manager and city attorney work for the city council, not the other way around.

I agree that city staff is responsible to the city manager and we cannot direct city staff individually on what they can or cannot do, but we should be able to ask questions and expect answers from our city manager and attorney. This is not happening.

An example of this is the so-called “hate” e-mail sent to the Isle of Wight Sheriff from a Franklin city office. I was informed by the city manager that this is a personnel matter, and we will not know what will happen, or the person who sent it.

I’m tired of the excuse of a personnel matter.

In my opinion it was personal in nature and we should be kept informed of who did it, why they did it, was anyone else involved and what if any punishment was given. I, for one, would be interested in the type of investigation that was done and whether or not it involved any department heads.

The point I am making here is that too much information is being kept from your elected officials and citizens by staff, and with the new charter changes, they want to make it harder for us to ask questions on your behalf.

I have been asked why I always seem to side with a particular councilman. It is not that I always agree with what he says or does, it is just that I don’t like that the citizens are ignored by other council members as they carry on their personnel vendettas and their own agendas.

You can see this on the recorded city council meetings. Also, watch out that where we are really going to be burned is our upcoming real estate tax rates because of a loss of revenue from the shuttered International Paper mill and the ailing economy. The rate increase will not be pretty; just ask Southampton and Isle of Wight about this.

I am disturbed about what is happening to the citizens and city staff. It appears most of the complaints of citizens are turned over to deaf ears.

It is obvious that united we do not stand on city council, so divided we will fall until the citizens put in office those who will listen to them and not their personal agendas. City leaders are playing the same old games and leaving the citizens out! Only you can hold them accountable!