Block: Scotland leaders holding hands off the cliff


Local elected officials are always saying how wonderful it is if we all work together.

For example, two weeks ago, The Exchange printed a warm and fuzzy statement issued jointly from the county commissioners and school board proclaiming how they wanted everyone to know that they trusted each other and things were swell between them.

Last week, a city council member made a point of saying how the new art park was another wonderful example of the city, county and schools working together. Everyone agrees, working together is very nice.

There is only one problem with this. It is that the local elected officials, while they are busy patting themselves on the back for working together, keep leaving out one important group . That group is, unfortunately, the public.

If we were to hold a county-wide meeting where every citizen was asked to list their top priorities for the elected officials to work on, what would that list look like? From what I know, it would look like this: More jobs, more things to do, lower county taxes, less crime, less drugs. These are the things the public wants. Where would spending $50 million to build a new elementary school and new City Hall rank?

Where would a new art park rank? These things are nice, but does anyone think that a gathering of citizens would put anywhere near the top of their list taking out a loan of $50 million to build a new elementary school and a new City Hall? A loan that would cost the citizens approximately $4 million a year for 20 years to pay back. For a new school and new City Hall? Wouldn’t the public want, instead, their tax money be spent the way they spend their own money? The public isn’t abandoning or demolishing their old houses they live in and building themselves new ones. They make due, so they can spend their limited money on more important things. So why would the public choose to spend $50 million on new buildings when they could fix up the ones they have for a fraction of the cost? The answer is, and I am 100 percent certain about this, that they absolutely wouldn’t.

But don’t think for a minute that pointing this out to the local elected officials will make one bit of difference. Don’t think they will seriously consider that the public would prefer, that instead of sending $4 million a year of taxpayers money to out of town developers for the next 20 years for buildings that are not necessary, that these same $4 million could be used to lower the county tax rate (by much more than the one penny the county commissioners are so proud of), build an industrial-sized building to lure industry, build a community center to make this a more attractive place to live, devote more money to fighting crime and drugs etc.

Am I the only public official who hears, every day, that we need more jobs, that there is not enough stuff here for the kids to do, etc? Has any citizen ever asked for a new City Hall or a new elementary school? So how could the elected officials be so out of touch with how the citizens want their money spent, or not spent? Because it is obvious that what the public really wants comes second to what the public officials want. They are all too busy secretly horse trading with each other, carrying out their board’s selfish agendas, to care for what the public really wants them to do. And then they want the public to recognize and praise them for ‘working together’ ? For spending $50 million of public dollars for buildings the public doesn’t want or need? For building an art park? If that is the best that ‘working together’ achieves for our community, I think I will continue to pass.

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Matthew Block

Mayor’s Column

 

Matthew Block serves as mayor of Laurinburg and writes a bi-weekly column on issues in and around the city.

 

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