The News Courier
— The News Courier encourages letters to the editor. Submissions should be no more than 400 words and should include a name, address and telephone number for verification. Submissions that do not meet requirements are subject to editing. Send letters by noon on Thursdays to P.O. Box 670, Athens, AL, 35613, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Lou C’s open
I heard recently that Lou C’s Boutique was going to close. I talked with Lou Covington and she is hoping someone would be able to pick up what she started.
Athens needs this boutique so that we who are survivors have a nice, peaceful place to obtain personal attention and a helping hand and to acquire wigs, bras and much more. The atmosphere is soothing, hopeful and full of love and understanding.
I know this from experience. I am a survivor of three cancers. My first experience of receiving a bra was not the same as I received at Lou C’s. It was in a back room at a pharmacy, lined with boxes and no mirror.
At Lou C’s you were greeted with a smile, taken to a well-lit and homey room, with a dresser and mirror. You were fitted and given choices of what you’d like.
I’m sure there are many that wouldn’t be able and venture to Huntsville to receive this treatment.
Officials show arrogance
I am still astounded by the arrogance and lack of judgment by our current City Council and mayor with the exception of Mr. Hickman, by their actions at last Monday’s City Council meeting. These people had the audacity to railroad an additional 1 percent sales tax increase on the citizens of Athens and Limestone County without even an opportunity for the citizens to be included in this process.
This should have been discussed with the citizens of Athens and Limestone County in open forum meetings to inform everyone of the problems and go over the many ways that additional revenue could have been generated, such as increasing the hotel taxes, raising the millage rates for property taxes, etc. At the end of that process, the newly elected City Council members would have been in office instead of forcing this through with the lame duck members.
The municipal elections were held approximately two months ago without any mention by any candidate of any shortcomings in the finances of our town. Two weeks ago, we first hear of any mention of these problems and that the only way to correct these is by a sales tax increase. I have yet to hear any mention by the mayor and council of any other ways to generate revenue other than a sales tax increase.
It seems to me that our elected officials have forgotten how they were put into office and whom they are representing. From what I have seen in the last two council meetings, our elected officials have decided that the citizens are stupid and have no clue as to what needs to be done, but that they have all the answers for everything.
It is my hope that the three newly elected City Council members will take this issue on and try to get this increase rescinded until other avenues can be explored and all the information shared with the citizens. All citizens of Athens and Limestone County need to contact all members of the current and new City Council and mayor to demand that they be heard.
This is still a country that is for the people, by the people and governed by the people not by a few individuals who have forgotten whom they represent.
Mark A. Gibson
I was present at the City Council meeting Monday night, one of more than 100 concerned Athenians to attend. While witnessing in person the attitude of the council and its response to the people of Limestone County, one item was glaringly obvious: it did not matter what was desired, requested, even begged for, the council had decided what was best for the citizens of the city and county, and intended to enact it.
Over and over again, the need for new equipment for the fire stations, more police officers and better infrastructure was cited by the council, notably Councilwoman Milly Caudle. Over and over again, the people of Limestone County — 20 speakers in all — stood up to declare their choice in the matter and their voice was completely and totally ignored.
When the people declare their willingness to forgo the opportunities these improvements would provide and to risk the danger incurred by reportedly insufficient equipment and inadequate supplies, the representatives of the people have absolutely no right to thrust their agenda down the throats of the populace.
Of the 20 who stood up to address the City Council — including former and hopeful political contestants and the president of the Athens City School Board, Russell Johnson — not one supported the tax increase. And yet, with the single, courageous exception of Councilman Hickman — who listened to his district’s appeal and responded — the duly elected officials high-handedly flouted the will of the people and voted a taxation on the very population they were theoretically representing.
Taxation without representation is tyranny. And when the representers are not representing, they have become the tyrants.
City leaders a disgrace
The City Council members and mayor, who supported the sales tax rate increase, will go down in infamy. The city leaders refused to discuss, with full clarity, all aspects of a proposed new sales tax rate increase before passing it. They are a disgrace to their constituents.
The council members and mayor have changed the method of allocating funds to the advantage of special interests. At the Friday business meeting, a sheet showing what expenditures were proposed for the next five years was passed out to the mayor and council members by the city finance director, but not one copy was given to the citizens in the audience. Transparency, what a lie.
A prime example of the misuse of public funds is the amount to be allocated over five years. The total is $18,400,000, of which one-third, $6,500,000, is to be given to two items — the sportsplex and recreational center. The city has already expended $20,000,000 for the sportsplex, but the police and fire departments — that are critical to the quality of life and responsible for the health, safety, and lives of this growing city’s citizens and businesses — are given only a fraction of what is to be allocated to the sportsplex and rec center.
Worse yet, these sums are to be locked in concrete as to their dollar allocations and cannot be changed even if necessary for the good of the city, plus any annual sums unused in a given year will be carried over to the benefit of that activity in the next year rather than redistributed. Absolute lunacy from the mayor’s pen and approved by people that don’t have the citizens’ best interests at heart.
The new council members to be sworn into office in two weeks are not only intelligent, but are also individuals with integrity and the courage of their convictions. There should be no carry-over of the old attitude on the council, but instead let’s get a new member sworn as council president for one year and rotate it among the new members first.
We can’t let the mayor and his lackeys continue to disparage the experience and abilities of these new members. We need a breath of fresh air wafting through the halls of city hall and no more backroom, under-the-table deals.
The citizens must make their dissent known. We will get our retribution.
Quentin D. Anderson Sr.
Citizens shown no respect
Yes, I hate to see another taxing in Athens. Yes, I hate to see the people of Athens disappointed, me included. But what I hate to see even more is disrespect toward the citizens who attended the meeting last week.
No matter how irate, no matter how much in disagreement, no matter how much the council disliked hearing those who disagree with the increased sales tax, it is the job of council to hear them out without censorship.
It is not in the job description of council members to be disrespectful, disparaging and to make intimidating remarks to those who are brave enough and who have chosen to come before the council with their requests, even though they already knew it was a “done deal.”
Council member took the job knowing they would face hard decisions and finger pointing when they settled into the comfortable /uncomfortable roll of decision making. What this job does not call for is a remark as was made by Mr. Jimmy Gill to Ms. King in last week’s meeting. Mr. Gill, in front of the whole attendance, thanked Ms. King for the entertainment. Ms. King was not there to entertain, but to plead the case for everyone in Athens, not to be embarrassed by council.
Sometimes it’s hard for everyone to keep a level head when so much is at stake, but it is your job, councilman and councilwoman, to be effective, handle each situation with a clear head, listen to the people with whom you disagree and refrain from saying everything that passes through your mind.
What kind of role model does this make you to the people of Athens? If you can’t do this, maybe you’ve been there too long.
Tax not badly needed
The room was filled with concerned citizens at the Athens City Council meeting last Monday night. This was primarily due to the expected vote by the council on increasing the Athens city sales tax rate by 1 percent. Since the current rate is two percent, this would be a 50 percent increase in actual revenue realized.
Numerous attendees addressed the council, presenting a myriad of reasons why the increase should NOT occur. No one spoke in favor of the proposed tax. Yet, when the vote came, 4 out of 5 council members voted “yes.”
Amazingly, that 99 percent of the attendees were against the tax appeared to be non-relevant to these 4 council members. Their attitudes of open disdain and selfish arrogance prompted objections from the audience that they were supposed to be representing, as they were greatly disappointed.
There are some obvious disadvantages to a tax increase due to take effect on Jan. 1. Several federal tax relief measures are scheduled to expire at that same time, so Americans are already faced with significantly less usable income. Although the tax increase is proposed to generate more than $4 million additional dollars per year for Athens, what that means is that the 4 million dollars will then NOT be available for retail sales.
The loss of those sales will automatically mean a cut of $40,000 to the expected increased city revenues. Even more importantly, it will mean loss of some jobs and possibly the closing of some small businesses, as the local economy just can’t absorb such a loss. It becomes a snowball effect, gradually dragging a city down. By widespread opinion, Athens doesn’t need a 50 percent tax increase that badly.
During the recent city election campaign, it was openly stated that Athens was in good financial shape. Recently published in this newspaper was a list of “needed” projects for which the extra tax revenue would be used. There was nothing on that list for any real presently “missing” Athens infrastructure.
Rather, it is a nice-to-have list. Again, Athens just doesn’t need a 50 percent tax increase that badly.
Recall mayor and council?
(Editor’s note: The following letter was received after last Sunday’s letter deadline and the subsequent passing of a 1-cent sales tax increase by the Athens City Council.)
Did I miss something during the last election? I don’t remember Mayor (Ronnie) Marks pledging to raise taxes as soon as he and the council could after the election, particularly before any new members could have a say.
Now I read that Millie Caudle says she knows no one who is not in favor of new taxes and has heard no dissent. She needs to get out more and talk to grocery shoppers at Hometown or Walmart or visit the food bank and meet those already in such need or meet some seniors not able to buy their medicines now. The politicians say they have not heard from anyone out there against new taxes. Citizens better speak up now before the back room deals are finished.
Can someone reply as to the recall process for mayor or council?
Let’s move on for Athens’ sake
The new council will be seated Nov. 5, and with this action initiate our move forward for the next four years. Let’s do it in positive fashion.
What we need now is to place the incoming council in a position to have the opportunity to manage and to ensure that the taxpaying citizens of Athens are provided the highest level of service across the board in a very cost-effective manner.
The makeup of the new council is excellent. I am excited, and look forward to watching and supporting their stewardship of our city. Let’s all start anew in support of the incoming council.
First, we must have a much more active and participatory citizenry. People must become more involved and take ownership regarding the management and direction of our community. We must also resolve and put behind us the confrontations and acrimony displayed at the Oct. 19 and Oct. 22 council meetings. I also suggest a change in the council leadership to provide enhanced communications and relations, as well as fresh ideas in the future.
Near-term items of interest to watch and monitor:
1. How quickly the new council members get up to speed regarding Athens issues and operations.
2. How well the mayor and city departments initiate work sessions in support of item 1.
3. How the new council will manage actions regarding non-infrastructure interests.
4. How well the returning council members facilitate the new members’ required learning curve.
5. How the new council will manage and report on Athens’ issues, budgets and spending.
6. How the new council responds to the issues of new leadership and community involvement.
7. How well the council monitors and manages the mayor regarding Athens’ economic development.
8. How involved and supportive the council is in the upcoming Vision/Plan project for Athens.
9. The council’s new goals and objectives for the city in the coming months and years.
10. Adequate recognition and reporting of our city’s excellence in providing services.
If I were asked to provide a grade relating to the city departments, administrative management and employees’ performance, it would be a B-plus. For the mayor and the current council in regard to promoting and providing recognition of that performance is a D-plus. We need better performance reporting across the board.
Let’s have nonpartisan elections
In our right to vote, it is wonderful that we can vote for whomever we wish without being hidebound to a political party.
If I am aware of the fact, I am not going to vote for a communist just because they are a Democrat nor for a bigot just because they are a Republican. I intend to vote for the honorable ones that have a good record in serving their fellow citizens locally or nationally as the case may be.
The city of Athens has it right in having nonpartisan elections. Detractors cannot tie the candidates for a city office to some hated persons of a national party.
I wish that it was the same for the county offices. Some good public servants are slandered just because they happen to run on the ticket of a certain political party that is unpopular in our region. Most of the time these maligned public servants are people of morals and character that are just as good or better than those that condemn them.
William R. Graham
This letter is in response to a recent News Courier article quoting Ron Gatlin (Limestone County Democrat Party chairman) and Ms. Pam Wallace, both of whom attended the Democratic National Convention.
Both attendees commented on the “flawless’ speeches,” “exceptional oratory” and positive motivation shown by the featured speakers.
• Former President Bill Clinton, who disgraced the office of president by being impeached by the House Judiciary Committee for perjury and obstruction of Justice; these charges were approved by the House. Only a 50-50 split in the Senate prevented his impeachment and removal from office. He also had a variety of separate sexual charges brought against him by Kathleen Willey, Linda Tripp and Paula Jones (whom was paid $850,000 to drop her case). He was also (still during his presidency) charged with contempt in a civil case by one of the women. Lastly, the disgraceful sex escapade outside the Oval Office he conducted with intern Ms. Monica Lewinsky.
• Ms. Sandra Fluc, a college student who demanded and received taxpayer funded birth control medication for her promiscuous lifestyle while attending college. Taxpayers are also paying for her tuition through grants and government loans.
• Sen. John Kerry who disrespected the military by publicly touting intentional destruction of his government issued military uniform and throwing away all awards received for his service.
• There was praise via historical video tape of Ted Kennedy, the sitting senator who left a young lady to die in a submerged car while he went home, waiting to report the accident until the next day.
• President Obama, who visited the “English Embassy” (there is none; it is the British Embassy), visited 52 of the 57 states and in a speech repeatedly pronounced the U.S. Marine Corps the Marine “corpse.” During his nearly four-year term, he has never passed a budget (although the Republican House passed a budget that remains in Sen. Harry Reid’s office. Right now, he has tripled our national debt and today, we are borrowing 31 cents of every dollar we spend. None of us could survive this, and I doubt our country can either.
Mr. Gatlin and Ms Wallace, how can you condone this type of behavior and leadership? Our country cannot.
I, for one, would certainly not walk across the street to listen to any of the DNC touted speakers.