The News Courier
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Don’t mess with Oil Trust Fund
Years ago, when Alabama started collecting royalties from offshore oil drilling operations, some of our wise leaders established the Oil Trust Fund. This Fund was intended to endure in perpetuity, since the intention was to spend only the interest earned, leaving the principle intact.
The Fund accumulated principle for years, as royalties were paid in, but then our political “leaders” could stand it no longer. They figured out a way to dip into this money source by developing a special Rainy Day Fund, which we voters approved in 2008. Thereby, they could borrow against the Oil Trust Fund, with certain limitations, including a requirement that this money had to be repaid within 10 years.
However, as of two years ago, the maximum amount has been borrowed from the Trust Fund, unless the state budget level increases, or the borrowed money is paid back. With the present economic slowdown, this will probably not happen soon. Rainy days are for real economic apocalypses, when dry toast is on everyone's menu, not merely when politicians fail to resolve budgetary issues.
Rainy days are not when our politicians just want to kick the can a little further down the road. So, what are they asking us to do on this coming Tuesday, with the special election? Basically, it is to eliminate restraints so that they can further erode away the Oil Trust Fund principle by the amount of nearly half a billion dollars over the next three years.
There is additional wording in this amendment under consideration, for more eroding processes in future years, about which even our legislators are confused. There seems to be little hope of being able to pay back the currently borrowed money real soon. Royalties and interest earnings are decreasing, so we certainly shouldn't be borrowing more. Furthermore, there is no provision in this proposal to repay the Fund, so future allocations to Athens will be reduced.
We simply need to have a state budget that calls for less spending now. Political propaganda can be powerfully persuasive, slanting perspective against the truth. Don't be fooled by those who want to spend your remaining Trust Fund dollars for their programs.
We elected individuals that we thought we could trust to guide our state effectively, but when we realize we have made a mistake, we don't want to make it worse. On Tuesday, just say no.
Athens in need of transition plan
I recommend each recently elected councilman, runoff candidate, unopposed incumbent and/or our newly elected mayor who all, “want to hit the ground running,” develop a comprehensive transition plan.
This plan would set the stage to manage their district and the city of Athens, and successfully move forward into the future. The plan’s foundation should support the actions and activities required to insure the progress promised to the voters of each district and the city.
Our elected leaders and/or candidates should immediately initiate the development of their plan and define a set of actions and items, with schedules, to accomplish their goals and continuing objectives. Plus, actively recruit knowledgeable citizens who understand their district and the city’s needs to assist in their plan’s development.
These plans should be published and include a description of how they will be implemented and managed, via The News Courier, and reported on as applicable (perhaps as an insert). This open and transparent reporting process would reflect the progress and successes relating to the completion of planned items.
Critical to keeping our citizens informed, performance measurement should relate directly to specific planned events and deliverables, including: tasks, activities, meetings, action items, schedules, goals and objectives, miscellaneous accomplishments, and a status of inter-district initiatives, along with any potential impediments to progress.
In developing their plan each elected official should:
• Become immediately involved and work actively with current and the other future council members and the mayor, to understand the unique needs of each district and the city.
• Meet with city department managers, service providers, the police and fire departments, and city administrative functions, to understand current workloads, processes, activities, priorities, problems, issues, future plans, and the budget of every organization.
• Understand the functions, activities, issues and priorities of the Planning Commission, the Historic Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustments, and Economic Development Association, plus the other district’s activist groups, volunteer organizations, leading citizens, business owners, Athens City Schools, county commissioners and state legislators.
Last but not least, I am in complete agreement with Mr. Anderson’s Sept. 9, 2012, editorial comments regarding the high quality and experience provided by both Messrs. Gill and Wales, as well as, the potential represented in our newly elected councilmen. Let’s move forward Athens and stay involved with our city council and mayor, and, for you folks in District 1, please vote on Oct. 9.