The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Letters to the Editor

March 18, 2012

Letters to the Editor 3/18/12



J.E. Ford


Economy demands accountability

Dear Editor:

Having had profit and loss responsibility for several corporations, I have had experience in developing and approving multi-million dollar budgets.  Our city officials have similar responsibilities, but with less control over the generation of revenues to offset the expenses of serving a city like Athens.

Athens has many organizations that are supported by special interest groups that want and or get city funds allocated to them.  A real world example is the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism group.  You cannot justify funding based upon “market research” reporting without solid data regarding why the funds are necessary and a clear plan for the use of the funds. 

For example, the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism personnel have not done extensive polling and questioning of out-of-town and out-of-state visitors regarding where they are from, where they are going, the purpose of their trip, and what would attract them to Athens.  This would seem very basic to any plan and how to be able to meet the needs/desires of visitors. Yet, amazingly, it has never been done in depth! 

Why don’t all retail businesses, in Athens, remain open, on Monday and Thursday evenings, as other cities have done, in the past, to increase sales and tax revenues?  This will become critical with the incursion of new retail businesses in west Madison and along county line road. Again, where is the Chamber’s leadership?

There should be in depth justification before any funds are allocated other than just the desire for money to implement the special interest desires and salaries of “directors” of something that is redundant or unnecessary. 

Many organizations response for detailed funding allocation reports  have either not delineated expenditures or that it was based upon salaries, but no comment showing  how funds had directly benefited citizens. Our City Council has several members that really want to make the most efficient use of taxpayer funds, but not just dole out funds for the sake of giving out taxpayer dollars.

The “market research” project by Athens State students will not be the final, decision making answer. It will be one piece of the final overall financial plan. Our economy demands accountability!

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