I skipped out on my strenuous work duties for a few days last week to attend my family reunion in Texas.I would rather see endless arguing, petty bickering, and rehashing of past grudges from my relatives than from local elected officials. Plus, at a family reunion, I can witness this verbal ping-pong while enjoying a cold beer. Such refreshments are unfortunately discouraged at the government meetings I attend, although allowing them might boost public attendance and interest.  

Watching the City Commission’s budget work session this week was not the ideal way to recover from an exhausting vacation. The lack of any clear direction made me think of an activity that we did at last week’s reunion. We briefly broke up all of the usual binge-drinking and guilt-tripping to take a float trip with inner tubes on a stretch of the Guadalupe River.

Our drunken tubing jaunt quickly got interesting because the people who we paid to organize this activity didn’t specifically tell us where in the river we were supposed to stop. When asked about this before the float began, the only replies they gave were vague inferences that we would see them waiting for us by the river at some point. We apparently failed to do so and totally missed the spot where we were supposed to be picked up. This turned what was supposed to be a two-hour leisurely float down the river into a five-hour hell ride. Missing our pick-up point meant we took inner tubes through some rough rapids with sharp rocks, leading to much of the family getting scraped and bruised. More tragically, we had all run out of beer by the time the elongated float trip reached its end.

The organizers of this floating fiasco did eventually find us. We were informed that they were waiting to pick us up by a bridge a couple of hours into the float trip when they saw us pass by. We only saw one bridge during the entire float down the river. If we had initially been told specifically that was where they were meeting us, it would have saved us all a lot of time. However, failures in planning, communication, and execution caused the float trip to go on for much longer than anybody actually wanted.

Similarly, some City Commissioners seem to be trying to navigate the complicated waters of the budgeting process without articulating any clear idea about where exactly they want to be going. They give vague hints about cuts to government or property tax reductions, and throw out arbitrary general budget numbers, without actually charting a course to make the city government more able to help the people it is supposed to serve. They expect the City Manager to do all the paddling on this trip, while trying to continually reduce the size of his oars.

So far, this seems to have us headed towards rocky rapids of paying more for utilities than we were before, while city services are thrown overboard. This navigational technique leads to streets not being swept, a golf course not being mowed, a city auditorium not being in condition to provide entertainment, and vital city departments depending on outdated equipment.

I’ve yet to hear a valid reason for paddling towards a cut in property taxes in a town where so many citizens rent. Property tax cuts don’t benefit renters, unless landlords pledge to lower rents on the buildings they own at the same rate these taxes are cut. Otherwise, the landlords will just keep money in their pockets and only enrich themselves, while those who depend on vital services that are cut to fund these tax reductions are left wet and bruised.

Perhaps, the Commissioners think that lowering property taxes will attract productive new citizens and businesses to our area. However, if Chanute can’t even afford to sweep its streets, mow its golf course, maintain its parks, or take care of its main city building, attracting new residents to this town seems about as likely as having fun on a float trip while completely sober. Unless a realistic budget is developed that allows the city to meet the needs of its citizens without drastically cutting needed services, we’ll all soon be up a creek.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, solid budget proposals, or invitations to upcoming float trips to brian@chanute.com

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