When Elected Officials Fail
Guest Editorial By Ronald E. Sabo
|When elected officials forget whom they were elected
by and whom they serve it is time for them to be replaced. When elected
officials overstep and abuse their authority it is time for them to be
replaced. When elected officials are blinded by their own personal
agendas in lieu of what is best for the entire county, it is time for
them to be replaced.
I believe we have reached this point in Loudon County after reading about the last County Commission Meeting covered by Mary Hinds of the Times Herald in her article “Commissioners Continue to Debate School Building Plans” dated December 9, 2009. Mayor Arp and County Commissioners; Wayne Gardin, Harold Duff, Roy Bledsoe, David Meers, and Nancy Marcus are failing the people of Loudon County. Yet again they have rejected moving forward with the next step in the proposed building program delaying the process for another month.
For the last four years these individuals who have been made aware of the condition of our school facilities have failed to acknowledge or do anything about the desperate needs of our school facilities. These individuals have refused to recognize and accept the opinions of various professionals who have been hired by the county to help identify and prioritize the needs of our school facilities. These individuals have failed to listen to and accept the recommendations of the School Board, which has presented a comprehensive phased building plan addressing the needs of the entire school system. These individuals claim various reasons. “Commissioners Meers and Marcus said they couldn’t support the building program because they still don’t know what the board is wanting to build. But what they did know is it has too many “bells and whistles.”” How can these individuals know there are too many “bells and whistles” if they have no idea what the board is wanting to build? Wayne Gardin is quoted in a January 22, 2009-article by Hugh Willet, “Questions About School Cost, Funding Could Delay Loudon Vote,” that “There’s no way I’m going to vote for it. Not with the economy in the shape it’s in. That people I’ve talked to have made it clear they do not want another property tax increase.” However he is not willing to vote yes to explore how much money the commission could afford for the building program without a tax increase. Mayor Arp states “if the school board wanted anything like the $100 million being spoken of three years ago, the commission had better be ready to raise the rate and raise taxes. He said the building plan started at $100 million and “three years later we’re still at an impasse” and “He added the commission had never been told definitively what is needed.” The school board’s plan is clear and concise. The overall plan for the entire county may be $100 million. However, the overall plan is broken into several phases. Right now the school board is asking for funding phase one which includes four projects estimated at a cost of $45-47 million. Upon completion of phase one the next phase of construction will have to be evaluated, presented, and approved. So why is Mr. Arp focused on $100 million - that’s not what is being discussed. These individuals refuse to vote on providing the funding for the program because they disagree with the projects included in phase one and therefore they choose to kill the entire program. I must agree with Van Shaver who writes on his website in an article “ Seems Simple Enough” that “The law is very clear. The school board has the power to purchase land subject to the laws of this state, to erect buildings for public school purposes TCA 49-6-2006(b)(1). The commission has the duty to fund the purchase of school grounds, the erection and repair of school buildings and for equipping the same. TCA 49-2-101 (7). It was painfully obvious at Monday’s commission meeting that there are at least some commissioners who want to decide for the school board what and where the school board will build and if the board doesn’t go along, there will be no funding for the building program.” These individuals are failing to represent all the residents of Loudon County.
I believe there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for having accomplished nothing with regards to improving the school facilities in Loudon County in the last four years. If we were able to start construction tomorrow, we would be several years out before being able to occupy those facilities. Meanwhile our current facilities continue to age and degrade increasing costs for maintenance and repairs. Eventually the cost of repairs on aging facilities becomes poor stewardship of the taxpayer’s money. It’s like hanging on to an old car too long, eventually the repair costs end up being more than a new car payment. School facilities are a vital and essential part to a quality education system. Our elected officials have failed to recognize this and are refusing to plan for future improvements, expansion, and replacement. Our elected officials are failing to plan and provide for the future of not only our children, but for the future success of our county as well. A poor education system will impact other areas of our county and eventually impact the overall health and well-being of our county. A poor education system will negatively impact every tax payer in the county.
When elected officials fail those whom they are elected to represent and serve, it is time for them to be replaced. I believe Mayor Arp and County Commissioners; Gardin, Duff, Bledsoe, Meers, and Marcus are failing us and it is time for them to be replaced and Loudon County residents can do this at the next election. Until election time these individuals should be held accountable for their serious lack of action. Loudon County residents these are your tax dollars not at work for you, not working to make a better place for you to live, work, and send your children to school.
Ronald E. Sabo