At the last Dunsmuir City Council meeting, those of us attending were encouraged by Council member Matthew Bryan, the chair of the Council’s Finance Committee, to show up at the next Finance Committee meeting to share our views on how the city could reduce its $91,000 budget deficit.
I decided to take him up on his offer, so I stopped by City Hall and looked over the budget. When I showed up the next day for the meeting, I was the only plain, ordinary citizen in attendance. On the dais the committee and city staffers went through a lot of discussion on the city’s budget, at times in mind-numbing detail.
An hour and a half went by and I had had no opportunity to speak, nor did it appear that I would be able to do so anytime soon. So, needing to get ready for a planned trip to Ashland that afternoon, I left the meeting.
Here, in brief, are the comments I would have made if I had had the opportunity to do so:
• One budget-reducing option being considered would be to save $5000 in lease costs by moving the Children’s Park from its downtown location to Tauhindauli Park. Bad idea. Might as well move the library and the post office down there, too. The Children’s Park needs to remain in its present, central location. Find the $5000 cut elsewhere.
• One positive note during the 90 minutes of talk I heard was City Manager Todd Juhasz’s statement that the city could raise, on a simple majority Council vote, an additional $35,000 a year by raising the tax charged by hotels and motels another two percent. Definitely worth considering.
• I also support the hiring of a full-time community service officer who would be empowered to inspect buildings in the downtown area with the aim of getting them up to code, fixed up and attractive to new businesses. This could ultimately boost both property tax and sales tax revenues for the city. In the past the city has tended to sit passively by while neglected properties crumble, so this would be a definite improvement.
This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced a lack of interest in public input at City Hall. Yes, there’s a lot of lip service given to “citizen participation” in the abstract, but the actual practice often leaves something to be desired. I would say that letting your only “citizen participant” sit in silence for an hour and a half while everyone up there on the dais gets to talk at length speaks volumes about your commitment to “citizen participation.”