Clearly, no one in local government listens to me
Here’s what I wrote at the end of my column on February 1:
“I believe local government at the school and the town is making a mistake by focusing its efforts on frivolity, special interests and nonsense. These mistakes cost taxpayers money and are a distraction from doing what government should be doing: educating our students on the school side, and providing needed municipal services on the town side.
“Enough with the glitz and the glamour in local government, which keeps leading to costly mistakes.
“Just give us the basics, elected and appointed officials, and strive for excellence as you’re doing it.
“I guarantee you’ll have less mistakes to cover up if you do.”
In the weeks since my public comment about “enough with the glitz and the glamour in local government” the municipal government passed a resolution at the February 27 council meeting (without placing the resolution on the agenda) authorizing the town to put $10,000 down toward a $675,000 purchase of the former Wells Fargo Bank building on Bellevue Avenue. At the March 16 meeting of the Hammonton Board of Education, a resolution to purchase a $166,905.35 scoreboard was tabled.
Clearly, no one in local government listens to me.
And before you say, “Well, they didn’t buy the scoreboard” I have to say, how does a $166,905.35 scoreboard at a high school field even make it to the agenda in the first place?
TV studios. Six-figure scoreboards. Bank buildings. Closing off the Ronald Reagan Drive section of Central Avenue to create “Central Piazza.” Tens of thousands of dollars in funding from the town to the Eagle Theatre year after year.
How does this help fix the potholes on your street again?
How does this ensure we have a safe municipal water supply?
How does this help the students in the classroom become educated citizens?
Two-word answer: It doesn’t.
One last question: Who asked for all this spending on all these extras?
Four-word answer: Not most local taxpayers.
The stewards of our local tax money, water and sewer money and grant money have an obligation to everyone who pays into the system to make good choices every day with how that money is spent.
It’s not just about the money, though.
Decisions have to be made that consider the best course of action for all residents of the town. “All 15,000” can’t just be an empty catchphrase. It has to be something local government lives, every day, with each decision. Ask yourselves, elected officials: “Am I making this decision because it will make the town better, or because it helps a special interest or individual out with what they want.”
What they want, and can’t obtain without municipal help, is what I mean.
While all the local and elected officials at the town council, municipal government, school board and school government are taxpayers (whether in Hammonton or not), they have special privileges that most of the people reading this column and I do not have.
They have the ability to spend the money collected from taxpayers, sewer and water ratepayers and anyone who pays any kind of fee to the town. You and I can’t walk into town hall tomorrow and ask for money, or to build a television studio on the third floor of town hall or to purchase a bank building. They can, if they wanted to do so, and in recent weeks, they have wanted to do so.
As I wrote back in February, government needs to drop the “glitz and glamour” projects and return to doing what government should be doing: educating our students on the school side, and providing needed municipal services on the town side.
The town would run better for all of its residents, students and municipal and school employees.
And I could move on to other topics.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.