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City Budget: Where were the complainers before the vote?

Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 11:10 a.m. CDT

The more difficult the decision made by a governmental body, the easier it is to complain about it rather than offer alternatives.

Take, for instance, the Newton City Council’s decision this week to approve the proposed 2013-14 city budget, which calls for a 15-cent increase in the millage rate. Raising taxes at a time when there is a lot economic uncertainty isn’t always prudent, nor is it very popular.

But the issues leading up to the vote and the final vote itself were all discussed openly, and a public hearing was held to discuss the budget proposal. No one sent any written comments to City Hall; no one came to the public hearing to express concerns.

For his part, councilor Dennis Julius expressed a desire to soften the impact of the increase, but the rest of the council did not support his proposal. And for the council as a whole’s part, the citizens have previously expressed a desire for significant improvements in city services.

Those services cost money, and that money comes from only one source: us.

But two Daily News polls taken in the weeks leading up to approval of the city budget suggested there was a modest number of citizens opposed to tax increases, and at least a few who were not happy with many of the cost-saving changes the city has implemented.

So why didn’t anyone — even one person — speak out about the budget before it was passed?

That certainly didn’t keep a number of folks from immediately taking to the Internet and social media, deriding the council’s decision. Of course, most of those folks were commenting anonymously, cloaked in the veil of fictitious screen names.

But what of those who lashed out publicly?

Where were any of them when the council was in the process of developing its budget, a process that took months to complete? Where were any of them when the comprehensive plan — arguably a key contributor to the tax hike — was being developed?

Perhaps it’s because the adhered to Abraham Lincoln’s admonishment, “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,” but there are other well-thought opinions on exhibiting courage and speaking out. Elizabeth Cady Stanton perhaps said it best:

“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”

Now isn’t the time to argue over whether or not the taxes should be raised. That argument became moot the moment it was adopted by the council. Complaining about it does nothing to change it, but instead begs a simple question:

Where were you before they voted?

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