Who gave city premission to spend that money …. You did!

There has been a trend that I have been seeing in several localities lately. That is where people complain in a letter to the editor or speaking at council and say who gave you the right to spend money on some stupid project. See example here .

The frustration probably stems from when people ask for money to fix needed items in the city and there is just not the budget for it.  Cities as well an taxpayers personally should be watching the bottom line in these economic times.  However, one can get really frustrated when they can’t spend a couple thousand to fix something that is needed but can spend millions for something frivolous.  Especially when these items are things on someone on councils wish list.

The author in the above letter to the editor was addressing the City of Hampton. Now Hampton has a lot of items that need to be done that people are pushing for like :  schools, dredging the waterways , dealing with flooding,  revitalizing down town  and of course Fort Monroe. However, in this economy most groups are told they have to wait. However, Hampton is not waiting on its issues like 29 million on the new courthouse, buying old section 8 housing for  $15 million (13.4 million and $2 million to tear them down) , and now they are looking to buy another area of land.  They recently came out with their 5 year plan Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 160 million dollars. It included such items as 10 million to extend a road, 3 million for an overpass near town center and multiple sidewalks near developers projects.

The problem is when people come forward and need items done they have to wait years. This was the case  with some sidewalks in old North Hampton. Those people waited for years walking through the water where the storm drains flooded the streets trying to get from the bus to their homes. When I say waited I mean more than 10 years because they were asking when I first moved to Hampton.  However, if a developer wants sidewalks apparently it is fast tracked because there were 3 in the CIP which I had never heard mentioned before.  The pedestrian cross over for the town center is another example. Is it necessary, I don’t think so because I  drive past there everyday. Not that many people are walking to the mall. When they are they have no trouble with the timed lights. So yes it is nice but not necessary like some of the items that must wait because of the economy. Is it such an issue that they need to spend 3 million dollars on it?

So I can relate how the citizens of Hampton could become frustrated with this whole process.  But when they ask who gave you the right to spend taxpayer money. The answer is you , the taxpayer, did. Hampton recent presentation for input from citizens for the 160 million proposal only drew 7 people. The meeting was advertised multiple ways but only 7 people cared to show up.  Only 7 people of over 140,000. Then people get indigent about why no one voiced their displeasure about how money is being spent. If they really cared they would pay attention to council meetings , the budget and the CIP. To be fair a significant amount showed up several years ago. They made the citizens go around and dot the top three projects. There was one that was far and away the project considered most needed. However, when the plan was presented to council it was not on the list.  They did end up doing the project but at the time I remember many of the attendees saying that was just for show, a waste of time and they would never participate again. However, not to do so only allows for the pet projects to be approved.  People need to know what the city is proposing and hold them accountable. This is not an isolated incident in Hampton I see this happening in many cities.

It is like voting on the local level. People feel they have the right to complain about elected officials but can’t be bothered to vote. So we get ourselves in this mess and when we want to blame someone we need to just look in the mirror.