Collective Memories

editorial-logo3The budgeting process has begun and the fire departments and charities were the first to appear before the Budget Committee. I sometimes wonder why our elected County Commissioners believe that they are entitled to address citizens in the manner that they do, regardless of the request of the citizen or group. There should be an understanding that courtesy is always the standard. You would think that it could be the unspoken standard but, apparently, it can not so let’s speak it, loud and clear. The money that the Commission doles out is taxpayer money, every dime, nickel and penny of it. If they are inclined to be rude or condescending to those that ask them for personal donations then that behavior is only a reflection of their character. But, when they represent this County their behavior should be above reproach and every comment should be spoken with respect because, as a County elected official, they are the face of Jefferson County and sometimes, some of them need a lesson in graciousness.

Fire Departments, bless their hearts, took the first shot last week, with Dandridge and Jefferson City requesting additional funds. The response was typical of this Commission. It appears to be rather simple. If it takes a minimum of $55,000 for any department to keep the doors open then it will take more than $55,000 for those that answer more calls. If your service numbers are high, so are your costs. The party line is that there is only so much money in the fire department kitty and perhaps the split needs to be different. I would suggest that perhaps we need to up the amount that we put into the kitty. Safety should trump just about everything else. It is not a want, it is a need and we need the men and women that protect us from catastrophe to have sufficient equipment and gear. We make some strange choices in this County. It is much like the parents that will purchase cigarettes and alcohol but won’t feed their children. We have all seen it happen and we have all lamented about having priorities in order. It is time that we insist that our County Commission put our needs first and it is time that they listen.

Other charities also came before the Budget Committee and tried to justify their need. Like poor a Dickens’ character begging for just one more piece of coal, they were met with frowning objection from some members of the Budget Committee. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the meeting was who was not required to be in attendance. If you are a charity that did not ask for an increase in funding, regardless of how the general public feels about your funding, you are off the hook. A neat and convenient slight of hand and one that should not go unnoticed by the voting public. In the end, and despite the inquisition, the Budget Committee made very few decisions. It was unnecessarily painful and it is time that someone calls those members that feel the need to go for the throat of every charity to the carpet for their behavior.

Yes, there is a limited amount of funds and, yes, the Budget Committee is charged with being good stewards of our funds. Perhaps what needs to be remembered is that it is not their personal convictions or well being that is under consideration, it is that of the citizens of Jefferson County. Charities generally provide services that are important to the quality of life of others. If the quality of life of the residents of Jefferson County is not the first priority then perhaps it is time to put our confidence in those that have more like priorities and this year that is a real possibility. We may have been scrooged before and we may be scrooged again, but I will just bet that our collective memories are longer than the life left on our aging fire equipment.

Source: K. Depew, News Director