Truth & Ethics
Truth & Ethics
You have probably heard the phrase "the first victim of war is the truth." I have also heard it used in describing politics as well. Since writing our membership in late August a lot has happened, both here in Franklin County and also across our great land. We have new leadership at many levels and problems that at times might seem insurmountable. I was listening to one radio talk show yesterday featuring recession proof jobs. At the top of the list were government jobs. Yes, you'll hear about this government service being cut here, or that government office closed there, but historically, few government jobs are cut in the end. In fact, recessions usually herald an increase in government jobs and benefits as "stimulus" money percolates down. We will have to see how the present economic conditions play out. But, understand this one truth, we are the grass roots. Change starts with us and the actions we either take or don't take. Our problems are not insurmountable when "You" are involved.
2008 Franklin County Election Comments
The 2008 General Election is behind us and delivered a couple of surprises and one sad eventuality.
- Richard Harper, running for Property Appraiser was soundly trounced at the polls. Essentially, persons not born here, voted for Richard and people born here, didn't. Richard worked extremely hard on his campaign and I personally appreciate all of the effort he put into the race; all of us learned a lot from his experience.
- Pinki Jackel won over Russell Crofton and became the first Republican to win a seat on the BOCC in many, many years, if ever. She will be a positive addition to the BOCC and I'm hoping she'll shakeup the status quo.
- Skip Shiver beat Bruce Barnes for Sherriff and seems to be following through in bringing in outside talent to make his own mark on the department.
- Nina Marks won as School Superintendant on a pledge to expand the school employee count.
No other surprises to speak of. The CCFC wishes all of our elected officials the best as they begin their new terms.
Certified Taxable Digest Amended by More than 3%
The realities of the present economic situation have hit Franklin County hard and there is more pain on the way. Doris Pendleton, our Property Appraiser (PA) amended her Certified Taxable Digest by more than 3%.That is a loss of 3% in taxable value in the County and represents a drop of about $500,000 in tax revenues to the County in the current fiscal year!
I specifically asked the BOCC at their last meeting how they were going to pay for this reduction and they appeared to defer the question to the Clerk of the Court. At least that was how someone with me interpreted the convoluted response I received.Can anyone say, "Reserves!"Jimmy Harris, our Tax Commissioner bemoaned the drop off in collections to the County coffers when he compared year-to-date numbers from last year to this year. People apparently can't afford to pay some of these exorbitant taxes! The Commissioners are showing real fear that the Golden Goose has flown the coup! And, they are right. I have talked to many individuals that own property here, only because they can't sell. When the market turns around a bit, they are getting out. A number of investors have spread the word, that Franklin County is toxic to investors. The "we don't need your money" message has been received near and far.
I understand that Doris Pendleton's change to the Certified County Tax Digest is the largest in the State on a percentage basis. This is curious and requires further explanation and investigation. The CCFC will be requesting through the Open Records Act a listing of all the properties that have had their valuations reduced, to establish whether there is a pattern to those who experienced a reduction in their assessment, particularly in the light of this having been an election year. To say that the Property Appraiser must not use her office for political purposes goes without saying. Whether her 13 employees are used for political purposes is certainly another matter worthy of scrutiny and is at the heart of allegations of intimidation and reprisals.
Return Evening County Commission Meetings
Several citizens have asked over the last couple of BOCC meetings for a return to one evening meeting per month to allow working people to attend. The first two individuals that queried the Commissioners in the prior two meetings did not even get the courtesy of a "thank you" or "we will take it under advisement." Nothing, nada, silence. Last week, after the last poor soul threw himself on the issue without a word in response, I got up and asked for the BOCC to at least address the request. Our new Chairman, Smokey Parrish stated that their appeared to be little demand for evening meetings and said that participation was sparse when they used to have them. I don't agree, it's both arrogant and revealing that working people, especially the people who pay the bulk of the taxes are systematically excluded from addressing their representatives. We need your support on this issue. Below is a list of Commissioners and their email and phone numbers.Would you please email all of our Commissioner today and ask that evening meetings be reinstituted?Copy me if you would as well.
FRANKLIN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Phone (850) 670-6700
Phone (850) 697-2534
Phone (850) 697-3719
Phone (850) 653-8790
Phone (850) 653-4452
Have Your Civil Rights Been Violated?
Let's talk about something even more serious for a moment. I have been approached by several individuals over the past several months that believe their civil rights have been violated by elected officials of the County. I have agreed to be a conduit to see how many more people feel their Civil Rights have been violated. I would like anyone who believes that their rights have been violated to contact me via email and tell me their circumstance. There may be a legal action that can be taken to protect your rights and provide redress. Too many people tell me they are afraid to speak up. I promise you that your name and contact information will not be released without your permission. It is essential that all of us "Tell the Truth." You are not alone. Divided we fall, united we stand. You live in one of the freest countries in the world. Please, don't be afraid, we can help. The perpetuators of fear depend on you to not speak out. Prove them wrong.
CCFC Committee Proposed to Monitor FC School Board
Most people don't realize it, but the School Board actually gets a higher percentage of your tax dollars than the County. As I mentioned in our previous email, the Franklin County School Board is a mess as measured by the metrics that matter most, i.e. educational obtainment and value delivered. The CCFC has no official position today due to a lack of analysis and information. We want to change that. We are standing up a committee with one purpose, and one purpose only; attend school Board meetings and collect publicly available information that will help the CCFC understand the school system's present disposition and plans, thus allowing the CCFC to form an actionable position in the future. We need meeting attenders and a CPA/Accountant on this committee. Please email me your interest. More than ever, we owe it to the kids and ourselves to demand a decent education and transparency in the process.
Abuses by Government Officials and County-wide Voting
Have you ever heard of SWAT? No, not the police kind with guns, but the marketing kind that means Strengths, Weaknesses and Tactics. Your Association has spent many hours thinking about our SWAT. Our strength is our members and the truth of our mission. It's not their money to take from you and give to someone else. That's a basic fact and a basic right, both of which will inevitably ensure our success. First, we are weakened because we are outnumbered by the many good local folks who are obviously concerned with the potential negative ramifications of change, fed a steady stream of misinformation by people with their own special interests, and two, may have benefited by the kind of class warfare perpetrated on all of us by those who profit from maintaining the status quo. As discussed in a recent letter to our members, Your Association is going the legal route. We have two major thrusts within the CCFC; first, we will push for fairness and strict legal operations by government officials. In those cases where there are blatant abuses, we are going after those individuals to require them to follow the law. You will hear much more about this in future letters from me and in the press as these stories break. Second, our legal council has found a way to bypass the BOCC and allow the citizens to decide whether or not they want County-wide voting. We are actively pursuing this issue and if you have a special interest in making it happen; email me directly for details and to express your interest in helping. County-wide voting would both shake-up the existing power structure and force many people to "declare" their true intentions; no more sitting on both sides of the fence depending on who you are talking to at the moment.
CCFC Annual Meeting - Saturday, March 28, 2009
The Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc. will have its Annual Meeting on Saturday, March 28th. There will be three parts to the meeting:
- Members Meeting
- CCFC sponsored lunch
- Public Meeting, open to all
Details have not been finalized yet, but the meeting will be held in the Eastpoint Firehouse and will be in the morning to early afternoon. We hope to see all of you there and will solicit your input. Further details to follow next month, but, please mark your calendar now and plan to attend.
Sign-up for a Committee
That leads us to the next subject, that of your input in general. Several of you have been very generous with your ideas and time. Please keep it up. As we finalize our plans for 2009, continue to communicate your ideas, concerns and thoughts with your Board so that we may reflect that input. We need more Board Members, Committee Leaders and especially interested committee members. If you have an interest, we probably have a committee you'd be happy on! We have openings in the County Budget, Hospital, School, County-wide voting, Property Assessment and Hospitality committees. Please let us know what committee you might be willing to serve on.
County Spending Has Got to Come Down
Fellow members, we've long since identified the need for basic truth and ethical conduct as the greatest need within the political structures of Franklin County. We can't simply go out and make that happen alone. All of us need to make that happen through what you demand at the ballot box and just as importantly, in-between those elections. Communicate your displeasure to your Commissioners and copy us when you do. Nothing motivates a politician to do the right thing more than both a well-aimed spotlight and all of us, saying, "Enough is Enough". County spending has to come down or everyone is in for a large tax increase next year. The existing assessments are both unsupportable and unsustainable. Further, they can't collect them anyway; people are hurting. That's why, it's such a slap in the face to so many, to see County and School employees, have their pay and benefits increased on the backs of people hanging on by a thread in some cases. We don't begrudge anyone their living, but maybe it's time to reduce head counts to reflect the financial realities of the times and the commensurate need for services. I think that you will agree, the Golden Goose has departed Franklin County and won't be back for quite some time.
Best wishes from all of us, to all of you, for a safe and happy holiday season!
Allan J. Feifer
Concerned Citizens of Franklin County, Inc.