Epic

350px-boll_weevil_monumentHistorical, unique, encouraging, refreshing, epic – not words I would normally use to describe a school board meeting in Enterprise. Historical could always be used because the minutes are recorded for history. However, the other adjectives are not normally applicable.

Most board meetings you can look at the agenda, note all items to be voted on, assume they all passed unanimously and you would be accurate almost all of the time. I don’t remember seeing a dissenting vote in the meetings I have attended since the board was reconfigured about two years ago. A City Divided describes that reconfiguration if you need to catch up.

Epic – Really!

The meeting held on June 11, 2015 at 12:00 noon, however, was definitely unique based on my experience of observing meetings over the past 2 years. It was also encouraging, refreshing and might even approach epic status. I did look that up before I decided to use it and I think it fits. Epic is defined as extending beyond the usual or ordinary. This meeting met that standard.

The meeting had proceeded as usual up until after the personnel list was read and approved. That is when Dr. Wright submitted her candidate for Director of Elementary Education, Katrina Bowling, to the board for approval. Prior to today approval would immediately follow, which is what I expected.

New Board Member Reporting for Duty

Oh, there was one more new item in this meeting. It was the first meeting for new board member Dr. Daniel Whitaker and his presence and participation was welcomed, noticed and appreciated by this observer.

Doctor to Doctor

After a motion and a second, discussion was asked for, before the vote in this instance. That is when Dr. Whitaker asked several questions regarding how this candidate was chosen. Here are those questions and Dr. Wright’s answers from my notes.

How many people applied for this position? 70

How many of those who applied met the qualifications for the position? 50

Did you interview anyone else? No. We are not required to interview, just to post the position. Her experience with Pre-K was important. Consistency with what we are doing here in Enterprise was the most important criteria.

Do any of the other candidates work in this role now or have experience in this role? If so, were their results or test scores better than ours? I don’t know. Since we have had so many changes over the past year, the superseding need was consistency. 

If you are interested in changes over the past year you can take a look at An Eventful Year in Enterprise. Change has been a constant over the past year.

Process Not Personalities

These are common sense and practical questions for any open position, especially that of a Director of Elementary Education. None of this has anything to do with the qualifications of Ms. Bowling. She could very well be the most qualified and experienced candidate. I do think she is starting this new position at a disadvantage now because this has been brought to light.

How can we know we are getting the best candidate for any position if none of the other applicants are vetted and interviewed? I can answer that one. We can’t.

Is it unreasonable to expect when positions are open the best candidate for that position is the goal of the selection process? Isn’t that what makes any organization better and on the path to being the best it can be?

Should consistency be the overriding criteria?

A Rare No Vote

After these questions were asked and answered the vote was called for.

Dr. Whitaker voted No.

It was really the only logical vote he could make as the questions he asked illustrated the fact the selection process was short-circuited at best. Everyone else voted for the recommendation so it did pass 3-1.

So what does this mean?

What it means to me is we have a board member now who thinks for himself and when he has questions is not afraid to ask them AND when those questions are not answered to his satisfaction not afraid to cast a dissenting vote. That sets him apart from most of the other board members immediately.

Why did no one else ask these questions?

Do I expect to see this at every meeting?

No. Of course not. I do hope we see it when it is appropriate based on common sense and the oversight role I believe the board is charged with fulfilling.

This is only one meeting but it is a positive and encouraging sign for me and I suspect many others.

I do hope Dr. Whitaker continues to speak out, ask questions, and vote his convictions. I know he will be discouraged from doing so by the Alabama State Board of Education and others. The ceremonial-no discussion-unanimous vote meetings are what the State Board wants. I don’t agree with that philosophy and don’t believe it serves the public well. That promotes What Works 100% of the Time and not transparency.

I will pray for Dr. Whitaker as I do for all board members that he will make all decisions in his official capacity as board member based on what is best for those he serves and nothing else. Based on today’s meeting I am encouraged he will do just that.

Welcome Dr. Whitaker and thanks for making today’s meeting unique, encouraging, refreshing and, yes, EPIC!

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

Wake Up Enterprise!

Take Back Enterprise – Informational Meeting

A couple of weeks ago I attended an informational meeting for a new group in town. I have written about Take Back Enterprise before but at this meeting I learned more details about their vision, purpose and goals and the progress they have made so far working toward their official media launch later this summer. This post is an attempt to share some of the highlights of that meeting and how YOU can participate and help. There was far too much information shared for me to try to cover it all here.

However, Turner, Michael, Reid or Mark will be happy to come speak to your group and share their purpose, vision and goals if you have one that is interested. Just get in touch with them and ask them and work out the details. 

Not an Official Spokesman – Am an Official Supporter

In case there is any confusion regarding my affiliation with Take Back Enterprise let me clear that up here. I am not an official spokesman for Take Back Enterprise. I am an official supporter of Take Back Enterprise and the goal of Open Government in Enterprise. I wrote about open government in my last post What Works 100% of the Time.

I do have a blog where I often write about local issues. As this is a local issue I will likely write about it from time to time in the future. I will share what I know when I do so. However, the board members are the final arbiters and source of information regarding Take Back Enterprise.

I was able to get a copy of what their logo and bumper stickers will look like and am proud to display them here. Here is the bumper sticker.

TBE_Logo_bumper sticker

I hope you see a lot of these around town later this summer and on into 2016. If you share the goal of creating an open government in Enterprise you will have the opportunity to display your own. You can expect to see and hear more about and from them very soon via their web site, social media, window decals, bumper stickers, billboards and print media.

TBE_Main Street_6-4-2015 11-56-55 AM

I love this picture they chose, and I borrowed, that shows the Boll Weevil Monument and Main Street Enterprise. Anyone who knows me or has read many of my blog posts knows I love most all things Disney and Main Street USA at Walt Disney World is one of my favorite places to just hang out and watch people.

This picture reminds me of that in a lot of ways. I grew up in Enterprise and Main Street Enterprise will always hold a special place in my heart and memories. I remember riding my bicycle downtown, jumping the curbs, going to the Toy Store, Dime Store, Western Auto and many others. Main Street Enterprise is nostalgic for me in the same way Main Street in Marceline, Missouri was for Walt Disney.

Consequently the intent of anything I write here, say or do regarding Enterprise is only to make Enterprise better. I believe that goal is also at the heart of Take Back Enterprise and most of the citizens of Enterprise as well.

Pardon my nostalgic digression…now, on to the highlights!

Council Meetings

At the State of the City presentation earlier this year, when recognizing the city council members, the mayor said they don’t always agree on every issue. I remember that statement because it seemed odd to me. That is not the perception I have after attending many city council meetings over the past couple of years. I have never seen a No vote on any issue. When the voting records of the city council were shared at this meeting I was very interested in those numbers.

During the period of 2006-2014, there have been 237 council meetings with 12,189 Yes votes and 3 No votes.

One can reasonably perceive from these numbers they do almost always agree on almost every issue. We can be told they don’t agree on every issue but the voting records do not support that statement.  Obviously there is a disconnect here that more transparency could minimize or eliminate. I suspect if you asked your councilman he would tell you they do disagree in private as well. That could be true but it is not the perception I get.

Gathering Public Information

Turner shared the hurdles he had to jump and cost Take Back Enterprise incurred in obtaining the information obtained so far, which is supposed to be public information. In contrast to this experience, he shared examples of other cities of similar size and how they freely share information online to illustrate how easy this could be. They have done their research. It should not be this difficult or expensive to gather public information which does belong to the public.

Charts, Graphs, Tables (Not included here)

Some of the other data shared were in charts, graphs and tables and would be hard to describe adequately here. I do not want to misrepresent any of this information but did want to make you aware it is already available. I encourage you to contact any of the board members for details if you are interested. The data for these tables and charts came from the city audits for the past several years acquired as mentioned above.

Historical population and sales tax revenue growth, and how those trends seem to follow each other were included.  Based on these historical numbers future growth projections were shown. They also showed the cumulative needs of the city along with cumulative actuals and the resulting cumulative difference for the past 5-6 years and projected out to 2020.

What do YOU want to see?

YOU have seen highlights here of some of the information they already have and can share now. Take Back Enterprise wants to hear from YOU regarding the type of information YOU want to see on their web site when it is launched later this summer. They cannot be advocates for government to be more collaborative and open without practicing the same themselves. If they are not in tune with what people want to see both the web site and group will be of little value. The only way they will know what YOU want to see is for YOU to tell them. I hope YOU can sense a theme here.

YOU can do that in several ways. Talk to them when YOU see them around town. Send them YOUR comments, suggestions and contributions to them at

Take Back Enterprise

P.O. Box 310372

Enterprise, AL 36331

Or via email at takebackeprise@gmail.com.

Here are a couple more examples of logos you will begin seeing soon. I think they are very well done.

TBE_Logo_Enterprise_5-28-2015 9-11-50 AM

TBE_Logo_No words_5-28-2015 9-15-02 AM

Here is the Take Back Enterprise Mission and Vision.

TBE Mission_5-30-2015 9-46-50 PM

TBE Vision_5-30-2015 9-47-39 PM

I end this update with a few quotes from Clint Eastwood I think relate well to this discussion. He was talking about his decision to speak out politically.

He spoke of how Jon Voight asked why no one in Hollywood ever spoke up. 

“And I thought, you know, he’s right. We are kinda chicken,” said Eastwood.

“We’re sitting here going, ‘we’ll let somebody else do it.’”

And he came to this conclusion…

“If it makes the right people angry, then good. Maybe it will wake them up!” ~ Clint Eastwood

Don’t sit back and expect “somebody else to do it” regarding pushing for open government in your city of Enterprise. Don’t be “kinda chicken.” Do YOUR part. Get involved. Remember, YOU can support this group anonymously if YOU don’t feel comfortable doing so publicly. 

Enterprise is doing well but can do better. Whether that happens or not depends, in large part, on YOU and what YOU choose to do over the next 12-14 months.

Wake Up Enterprise!

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

What Works 100% of the time?

350px-boll_weevil_monumentOpen Government

Do you know what open government is?

What about transparency in government?

Participation/Collaboration?

Accountability?

I know you are familiar with what these words mean but have you seen your local representative in government (or any other level) operate this way lately? Would you like to?

Let’s take a closer look at these concepts as they relate to those elected to serve in any governmental capacity. These can be applied to any level of government service.

Transparency

The word transparency has been used a lot in politics the last few years. Barack Obama promised his administration was going to be the most transparent administration in history.  You can be the judge of whether he has met that goal or if just stating the intention was as far as that went. My take is crystal clear on this one.

In my opinion, the word transparency has been overused and misused to the point of being irrelevant when mentioned by a politician.

If someone elected to serve is really being transparent as they fulfill their duties they will not need to tell you. You will know.

Diana Oreck, the Vice President of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, when talking about transparency said,

Leadercast Quotes_001

How active is the rumor mill where you work?

Participation/Collaboration

Would it make sense for those elected to serve you asked for your input periodically, more often than every four years during the election cycle, to get a sense of what you are interested in, your concerns and your ideas? If there was collaboration between you and those you hired with your vote to serve in leadership roles would you have more confidence in all decisions they make?

I understand we elect officials to make decisions so taking a poll or asking constituents what they think about all decisions is not practical or desirable. However, shouldn’t taking a pulse of what your constituents have on their minds more often than during election season every four years be a reasonable expectation? They do work for you, not the other way around.

Are you holding them accountable?

If you have expressed your concerns or suggestions to your councilman were they responsive to your questions and concerns or dismissive?

Accountability

Did the officials you elected to serve follow through with what they promised or commitments they made when they asked for your vote? Are the results of their decisions and actions what was promised? Do they measure their success only by their intent or by the results of those intentions when implemented? Do their actions match their words? Are they accountable for the actions they take and decisions they make in their official capacity? If not, shouldn’t they be?

Open government includes Participation/Collaboration, Accountability and Transparency and with your support open government will be coming to Enterprise in the very near future. Exactly what that will look like will depend entirely on your actions or inaction AND that of your elected officials between now and August 2016.

Coming in my next post

I do plan to continue this discussion in my next post next week with an update on what Take Back Enterprise has been up to since I last wrote about them in March and April. They shared an update in an informational meeting held last month and my next post will share some highlights from that meeting I believe most of you will be interested in seeing.

A Final Question

Is Open Government alive and well in Enterprise or does it need tweaking or full scale changes to make it so?

How each of you individually answer this question should help you determine what you need to do, if anything, between now and August 2016.

I contend wherever Open Government is implemented and practiced, it will work almost 100% of the time too. That includes Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama and these United States of America. It will work for those in office as well as those they serve.

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

7 Words

Is John 11:35 really the shortest verse in the Bible?350px-holy_bible-300x216

If you are familiar with the Bible I’m sure you’ve heard the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept” in John 11:35.

I had always thought that was the only verse in the Bible with only two words but recently learned that was not true. There is another verse with only two words.

You have to count characters to determine which is shortest. John 11:35 has two words and 10 characters. I Thessalonians 5:16 has two words and 14 characters.

So there you have it, John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible but you have to go to a character count tie-breaker for confirmation.

Contrasts are interesting

In addition to just the number of words I find the contrast in these two verses interesting.

In John 11:35 Jesus shows us He loved and felt grief just like we do. Lazarus, a close friend of His, had just died and a wave of grief just passed over Him like it does us when we grieve, so Jesus wept.

In I Thessalonians 5:16 we are told to “Rejoice always.” That seems to be in direct conflict or contrast with John 11:35, but is it really?

This does not mean to pray continuously but to pray persistently and consistently. Don’t just use prayer as a crutch or your “help line” when you have exhausted all of your own great, or not so great, ideas. Try it as a first resort. His ideas are greater than ours and prayer helps us learn what those are.

You Can Memorize Scripture

Three very short verses, seven words, and you thought you couldn’t memorize scripture. I am confident if you will just read these three verses a few more times you will have memorized three verses today.

7 Words Verses

 

God Does Not Do Coincidences

God does not do coincidences. He knew what He was doing when he inspired these verses as He did with all the other verses in the Bible. I am not an expositor of scripture and did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night but I can draw a couple of thoughts from these three short verses of scripture that make sense to me.

As Christians, if we would practice praying without ceasing that would increase our chances of rejoicing always. If we rejoice always we will even be able to rejoice when a brother or sister in Christ leaves this world and takes up residence in their final home with Jesus. We know they are rejoicing and that helps us to rejoice. However we will also shed a few tears because we are sad they are no longer here with us and we do grieve.

In the end, as Christians, we do have the hope and promise we will see them again one day when we get home.

Do you share this hope?

If you don’t share this hope and would like to learn how you can visit Peace With God and satisfy your curiosity. What you learn there can allow you to begin rejoicing always. You just may be weeping for joy and praying without ceasing will become a real possibility.

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

Unlike Any Other

CBS announcer Verne Lundquist, stationed in the TV tower at No. 16, made the call that day. That day was April 10, 2005. In case you are not a golf or sports fan and haven’t seen that shot by Tiger Woods on No. 16 on Sunday afternoon at The Masters on April 10, 2005 you can see it and read about it at the link above. The Masters is known as a Tradition Unlike Any Other and this is one of the most famous shots in that event. Since this year is the 10th anniversary of that shot it has been getting a lot of air time the past couple of weeks.

I didn’t see that shot when it happened…or when I expected. I do remember that day and night though.

This Tradition Has Been Part of My Life

The Masters has been one of my favorite annual traditions for many years. For me, it marks the official beginning of spring. I often watched it with my father growing up and in later years when he could no longer play so it brings back good memories of spending time with him. I forced my children to watch it as they were growing up if they watched anything on Masters Sunday. They probably didn’t like it very much at the time but I think they have all come to appreciate it, if for no other reason, they know what it means to me.

I remember that Sunday for a different reason…

On this particular Sunday evening Sharin was working 2nd shift in the blood bank at the hospital and I had gone to church with the kids. I had a deacons meeting after church so I had set the VCR, yes it was a VCR back then, to record the rest of the golf tournament and I planned to watch it when I got home.

After church, Sarah and Amy went to Dairy Queen, the traditional after church place to go eat and visit. Rachel and Thomas wanted to go too but I made them wait at the church for me. I wanted to get home to see how The Masters ended and I had to be at the airport for a 5:30 flight the next morning so I still needed to pack for that trip too. I was just about to sit down and watch the end of the Masters…

Then, the phone rang…

It was a little after 9:00 and I received one of those phone calls a parent never wants to receive. It was Amy, telling me she and her sister Sarah, had been in an accident. Amy was 14 and Sarah 17 at the time. Her voice was a little shaky because she was understandably shaken up and worried about her sister still trapped in the car on the side of a hill. She wanted me to get there as soon as I could. I am pretty sure I yelled at Rachel and Thomas, 10 and 9 at the time, to get to the car and to pray for their sisters and we hit the road.

A Stretch of Road Unlike Any Other

The section of Highway or Route 21 between Hillsboro, where we lived, and DeSoto, where we went to church, is a 2 lane stretch of road called “Blood Alley”known as one of the most dangerous in Missouri. As we neared the accident site traffic was backed up as it was stopped in both directions due to the accident. I got as far as we could and parked the car and told Rachel and Thomas to stay in the car. I didn’t know what I would see when I got to the accident.

Church Family – Unlike Any Other

Our church family from First Baptist Church DeSoto was already in motion doing what a church family does – taking care of its family members when they are in need and we were in need. Sharin had called William, our Minister of Music, and he was on his way from DeSoto to pick up Thomas and Rachel and take care of them for us. Pastor Jeremy was on his way to Jefferson Memorial, where Sharin was working and waiting and where Amy would be going soon. After Amy was checked out he drove Sharin, Amy, Tyler and Gene, our Youth Pastor, to St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, the destination of Sarah’s Air Evac helicopter ride.

An Accident, Unfortunately, Like Many Others

Upon reaching the scene I first saw Amy, who was understandably shaken up, upset, and worried about Sarah who was still in the car. The car was sitting precariously on the side of the hill facing back toward DeSoto, where they were coming from. It was being supported by cables attached to the fire truck parked on the road to keep it from rolling further down the hill. The paramedics were working to get her out of the car.

Rachel & Thomas looking at Sarah's Mitsubishi Mirage
Rachel & Thomas looking at Sarah’s Mitsubishi Mirage

I talked to Sarah briefly in the ambulance before she was taken up the road a short distance to a helipad for her flight to the hospital. She was worried she had done something wrong. I assured her she had done nothing wrong. There was nothing else she could have done. She told me and Sharin, who was on the phone with me at the time, she was sorry and she was going to be fine.

I talked to the officers and learned they were hit head on by a drunk driver who was in their lane as they came over a hill. We would learn later he was in the process of trying to pass 4 cars at once and, obviously, didn’t make it. There was nothing Sarah could have done as there is no shoulder on the road, just a hillside.

Unfortunately, this is an all too common occurrence in our society 

After both ambulances left I made my way back to the car and talked to William and made sure he had Rachel and Thomas and began the drive to the hospital where Sarah was headed, about 45 minutes away. I’m sure I broke some speed limits to get there. I also had to call Ramon, my boss at the time, along the way and let him know I would not be able to fly out to California the next day for work as had been planned. I was blessed to work for someone who was very understanding and supportive. He told me to do whatever I needed to do to take care of my family and not worry about work.

I don’t remember much more about that drive except I was doing a lot of praying.

At the Hospital

When I arrived at the emergency room or shortly thereafter I was greeted by several of Sarah’s friends and two former youth pastors, Jimmy and Jeremy. The church was there. This was just a small indication of the impact both Sarah and Amy had made, up to that point in their lives, on those around them.

When Pastor Jeremy arrived I remember him telling Sarah that God was watching over her and the reason she was still here is He still had big plans for her life. I believe that was true then and is still true today. They stayed with us praying and waiting most of the night while Sarah was in the first of many surgeries. I don’t know what we would have done without their support.

The Church – His Hands and Feet

In the following days and weeks we had meals prepared and delivered and prayers prayed and delivered for all of us as we walked through this ordeal. Russ and Chris built a wheelchair ramp for our house so we would be able to roll Sarah in when we got her home. To say we were blessed and cared for by our church family is an understatement.

I realize this happens in churches across the country every day. Maybe some of you reading this don’t. Some think of a big building with a steeple as the church. That is a false belief. 

Until you are on the receiving end of this kind of love you never really know what it means. It is overwhelming and humbling. We will be forever grateful for how our church wrapped its arms around us.

We also had Sharin’s mother, Rennie, with us for a few weeks after the accident. Ronnie, Sharin’s brother, made the 12 hour trip to bring her up. She helped with everything around the house as I was going back and forth to the hospital. Sharin only left the hospital twice during the two weeks Sarah was there. She can be strong-willed at times. That might be where our children get that trait from.

Meanwhile…back to The Masters

I am not sure when I saw that shot on No. 16 at the 2005 Masters and the remaining holes and playoff won by Tiger Woods but I am sure I did at some point. The next few weeks were quite busy.

I can tell you whenever I do see that shot replayed I am reminded of something that has nothing to do with golf or the Masters. Those memories do help remind me of what is important. I wish I could say they made me a better person but I am still working on that. I am a work in progress.

I can also tell you we all (except for Sharin) made it to The Masters for the first time in 2007 and Sharin did finally make it this year and got to experience it with Amy.

Masters-Mon_CX7430038

Priorities change…

The Masters is called a Tradition Unlike Any Other. At the same time it IS just a golf tournament. It ranks far below Serving a God Unlike Any Other and being part of two Families Unlike Any Other. I expect I will continue my annual tradition, probably like millions of others, of watching a golf tournament in Augusta in April called The Masters. However, when they do replay that shot, and they will, my thoughts will go elsewhere. Now you know where.

I thank God for my many blessings every day. I hope by sharing this experience and some of the blessings in my life it might remind you of some of yours and you will count yours every day too…

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

P.S. If you want to know more about the accident and recovery from Sarah’s perspective you can read more at the links below on her blog. She wrote about it as only she can do in a series of blog posts last year that are very well done in my opinion.

Be Careful What You Pray For

April 10, 2005

The Hospital

Hospital Life Lessons

A Change of Heart

 

 

An Eventful Year In Enterprise

350px-boll_weevil_monumentThree of my four most recent blogs began as one but I decided it would be best if I split them up to be able to cover the subjects as I really wanted to cover them. It would have been one really long blog if I hadn’t and probably wouldn’t have made much sense. I hope you think that was a good idea too.

Since I really don’t have anything new to say on this subject at the moment (subject to change at any time) I thought I would just summarize and include references to them all here for convenience in case anyone did not get a chance to see all of them or wanted to see any of them again or share them with someone else.

An Eventful Year

This post chronicles the major events as I saw them that occurred from late 2013 until early 2015, beginning with the Capital Plan created by Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood during the term of the interim superintendent, the hiring of the new superintendent, to the addendum to her contract in March this year. You can read more here An Eventful Year.

35 Days? Not Necessarily

This post focused on the 1/2 cent sales tax increase and when I believe it originated, which was well before the date it was announced to the public as an option and the best solution in June of 2014. You can read more here 35 Days? Not Necessarily.

The Silenced Majority

This post talks about the elephant in the room in Enterprise that no one seems to want to or feels they can talk about, the suppression of freedom of expression regarding issues that affect them or the gag order in place in Enterprise, however you want to characterize it. You can read more here The Silenced Majority.

Take Back Enterprise

This post was not part of that initial post but when I heard about this group I felt it fit in well with the other posts as it gives citizens a way to take action and make changes if they choose to do so. You can read more here Take Back Enterprise.

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

The Silenced Majority

“Nobody likes bullies. They push you. Shove you. Mock you. It’s bad enough to be bullied by people you don’t really know and don’t particularly care for. But to be pushed into the path of bullies by people you love and trust — that’s a far deeper pain.”  (Bible Studies For Life – Adults – Spring 2015 – A Death Like No Other)

Bullying is not just an issue for students

I covered this as it was exhibited in the 10/21/14 school board meeting in a couple of prior posts – Watch Your Back and YOU Are Not Alone – so I will not rehash it here but I did want to elaborate a little bit to better explain what really is at stake here.

Free Speech

I did mention in the YOU Are Not Alone post that bullying, intimidation or whatever you want to call it is not exclusive to the school system in Enterprise. There are many in Enterprise from many different vocations who are unable to speak freely about issues that affect them and their families. They have been told either explicitly or by implication their jobs or contracts would be in jeopardy if they did so.

Just so there is no gray area here let me hit you over the head with the proverbial sledgehammer –

Freedom of speech is being suppressed in Enterprise, Alabama.

Boll Weevil Monument, erected by the citizens ...
Boll Weevil Monument, erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama to honour the pest that ended their dependence on cotton, a poverty crop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is The City of Progress really making progress?

This is no revelation at all to those of you living in the midst of this, whether you’re speech is being suppressed or you are doing the suppressing. You know who you are.

However, if you are seeing this for the first time and having a hard time believing it, I did too. It’s not something you want to believe about the place you grew up and call home. It’s also not something I would say about this same place I call home if I was not sure it was true. If you refuse to believe it exists in Enterprise you are either being naive or are in denial.

Enterprise is called The City of Progress. It is painted on the water tower for all to see. From the outside looking in the perception is this is true, but is it really from the inside looking out? Is Enterprise really making progress when many of its citizens feel like a gag order exists and cannot freely express their feelings?

What Can YOU Do?

You stop intimidation or bullying the same way it has always been stopped – by standing up to it. When your livelihood is at stake it’s not as simple as it was in elementary school when you stood up to the class bully. That probably wasn’t easy then either. However, knowing there are others who are feeling the same as you (see YOU Are Not Alone) and can stand with you can be empowering even if you can’t talk about it in public. YOU are the Silenced Majority in Enterprise. It still takes guts and can be risky to stand up but doing nothing is risky too.

 

Rules over you_Voltaire

 

The quote above should make you think and might open your eyes to something that has been right in front of you but maybe never fully acknowledged. Maybe it has.

In any case, you do have an opportunity to change this environment for the better at the ballot box in the next election. Supporting Take Back Enterprise is a great way for you to get involved now. Increased transparency and accountability will decrease bullying and intimidation and that is what Take Back Enterprise will provide.

It will take action on your part though if any change is to be realized. Sitting at home and expecting “someone else” to do it rarely works in your favor. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a form of insanity. Providing support to Take Back Enterprise will be doing something new and can be your opportunity to collectively stand up and push back and see different results. Think about it.

Candidates Needed

In the last city election in 2012 three councilmen and the mayor ran unopposed and in the two council seats that were contested the margin of victory in District 2 was 155 votes and in District 3 was 106 votes. You can refresh your memory here Enterprise Incumbent Council Remains if you are interested.

This illustrate a couple of things to me.

  • Candidates are needed if changes are to be made.
  • The numbers needed to be elected are well within reach for you, the Silenced Majority in Enterprise, if you decide to act.

If you know someone who you believe would be a good candidate for any local elected office talk to them and encourage them to explore the possibility of running and serving. Public service is definitely not for everyone. Often those who don’t really want to or think they can serve make the best public servants. They just need a little push from their friends.

I hope you never neglect your privilege and your responsibility to VOTE whenever you have that opportunity! Many have died so you can exercise this privilege. Until that day arrives, don’t neglect your opportunity to get involved and help bring about the change you seek. The next city election is less than 18 months away.

Get involved and help The City of Progress really make progress!

Take action now so in 18 months you can say “I am glad I did” instead of “I wish I had.” The change you seek is well within your reach.

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

Take Back Enterprise

I am just one person who observes and shares what I see here occasionally with my thoughts and just as importantly, questions. In conversations with many of you I have learned it does make you think or affirms what you already think or believe. I do appreciate that and you, the readers. I also understand why you don’t feel comfortable to share your thoughts about this blog or many other issues publicly. I plan to post more on that particular subject in an upcoming post.

If you have read many of my posts you know I often encourage you to get involved in the political process and make changes if you don’t like or agree with what is going on in our city, or at the county, state and federal level of government as well. Along those lines, I have recently learned of a new organization created in Enterprise named Take Back Enterprise that will help you do just that and become a more informed citizen and, hopefully, voter.

Take Back Enterprise will expand what I do to a much deeper level with research and analysis and its focus will be on elected officials and decisions made in the governance of Enterprise.

I thought this might interest you too. Keep reading and make your own decision.

The What

Take Back Enterprise is a 501(c)(4) organization. A 501(c)(4) is a non-profit organization created to provide information to the public about issues, voting records, etc.  A 501(c)(4) is prohibited from actively engaging in politics as its primary function and can maintain donor anonymity. Their donors are not disclosed to anyone. 

This differs from 527 organizations or PACs, which I am sure you have heard of, which are formed with political activity as their primary purpose and must disclose the identity of its donors.

The Why

Here is their purpose statement.

TBE Mission Stmt01

 

The purpose statement goes on to say, Take Back Enterprise will accomplish this by performing the research necessary to gather the facts and will then inform the citizens through advertising and community forums.  Take Back Enterprise’s work will be performed entirely by un-paid volunteers and when necessary may employ the assistance of paid contractors that specialize in marketing and research.”

The Who

The principals and board members of this organization are Turner Townsend, Reid Clark, Mark Jipson, and Michael Townsend and they are looking for others to join with them in this endeavor.

The result of gathering and sharing this information will be a much more informed citizenry better able to choose those elected to lead our city. This information will either benefit the current elected officials in presenting their case for re-election or benefit anyone wanting to challenge them in the next election. Regardless, the citizens will be better informed and making informed decisions with their votes which is the goal.

The facts are what they are and are stubborn things.

The When

The when is now.

The next city election is just a little over a year away in August 2016.

The Where and The How

This is an effort to create that “informed citizenry.” It will take funds to gather, analyze, and provide this information. The principals have already made the initial investments to get this organization established. They will need help from citizens like us to sustain it and keep it moving forward effectively. The easiest and most effective way you can get involved and help is through your financial support. You can do that by sending your contributions to:

TBE_POBox01

 

Contributions are not tax deductible and any amount will help so don’t think whatever you can give is too small. If you have any questions or want to volunteer to help in any way you can also contact them at the above address. Of course you can also talk to any of the board members as you see them around town. They will be glad to discuss and share their vision in more detail.

Anyone can participate

Whether you live here now or not if you do consider Enterprise your home – maybe you grew up here or this was one of the stops along your life’s journey – YOU can get involved as well. 

Frustrated?

I know many of you are frustrated with what you see going on around you and that frustration is magnified by not being able to speak freely about what you see. Supporting Take Back Enterprise is one way you can get involved which can help with some of that frustration. YOUR participation will give you hope that better days are ahead. YOU can be part of making that happen, AND you can maintain your anonymity which I know is important for you too.

Help Turn the Lights On!

I chose the fog in the images above to represent the “transparency” in government. It is really more opaque than transparent. I see Take Back Enterprise as the light in these images, shining the light through the fog so all can see more clearly. Where you can participate is helping provide the funds to pay for the electricity to turn these lights on and keep them burning.

I encourage you to get involved and get informed.

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.

 

35 Days? Not Necessarily

DontWorryAboutItIn my last post An Eventful Year I highlighted a couple of dates and events regarding the 1/2 cent sales tax increase in Enterprise last year. The dates were 6/11/14 and 7/15/14. By my count that is 35 days between the public announcement of the “crisis” and “need” for a tax increase and the approval of this tax increase by the city council.

This is the second of three posts regarding events in Enterprise over the past year or so. In this post my goal is to focus on that tax increase and either remind you of how quickly or not so quickly this occurred and maybe point out a very common process that you might have previously never realized existed, and pose a few questions for your consideration.

“Don’t worry about it”

“Don’t worry about it” was the admonition given in 2013 whenever the subject of the $550,000 annual debt payback the school board was to begin paying in 2016 was mentioned as a concern. The reason behind this admonition did not become clear to me until June of last year when the sales tax increase proposal was made public. It was there all along just waiting for the right crisis to surface as the impetus for its implementation.

Classic Tax Increase

It followed the classic tax increase model used over and over again by those who have the power to levy taxes.

  • Create or take advantage of an issue/crisis that affects people emotionally or supposedly “gives them” something they now “need.”
  • Propose a tax increase as the only solution to this crisis. 
  • The tax increase will then become a reality very quickly.

In this case it took 35 days from initial public disclosure of this “crisis and need” to a simple unanimous vote by the city council.

I guess we should give the City Council credit for going through the motions for 35 days. They could have simply passed this at the next board meeting on June 17th. They did hold a public hearing to appear as if they were seeking input. However, I don’t believe anything said at that hearing could have affected their decision because it had already been made. I hope those citizens that did not support this tax increase will make their feelings public at the next city elections in 2016, just a little over a year away.

What Happened Between January and June?

There was no mention of a new income stream (translated tax increase) needed at the 2014 State of the City. In fact at that event we were told by the mayor, “Although the economy has been slow elsewhere, ours has remained on a steady upward growth to a planed out growth and it’s not declined.”

What happened between the end of January and the beginning of June that caused the need for a 1/2 cent sales tax increase? On the surface the obvious answer to that is helping the school system was the reason but was it really? Were they really not aware City employees deserved a raise in January? Were they really not aware Police and Fire personnel deserved raises, new hires and a new fire station in January?

Would different decisions have been made?

If you attended the 2015 State of the City event you would have heard about many new plans for 2015, including hiring more fireman and policemen, and building a new fire station with ‘to be paid from proceeds from this tax increase’ following them.

If they were not expecting to get this increase would they have made different decisions and prioritized spending differently in 2014? For example, would more funds have been allocated to Police, Fire and City employees’ needs and less to the Farmer’s Market in 2014 if they were not expecting and counting on this new revenue stream beginning in September 2014?

These are just questions that come to my mind when thinking about these events. Some will just call this prudent planning. Just to be clear, no laws were broken I am aware of and none are implied here. Public officials are fully aware that any action they take is subject to scrutiny and review and that is all that is being done here. Transparency with the people being served goes well beyond what is legal and I do wonder if that standard was met. Transparency is often used in politics today as a talking point but almost never practiced if it is even attempted.

Is transparency too much to expect of our elected officials?

So, was it really 35 days or was this tax plan was in the works much longer?

Should we have worried about it?

What do you think? I would love to hear your comments.

Until next time…

If you like what you read here or just want to see what comes out of my warped mind enter your email address in the sidebar on the left and subscribe. This is the only way to ensure you will be notified immediately whenever a new post is published.