The Bessemer City Council is truly a comedy of errors. It's not all the fault of the current council president, because I have witnessed this in the past (at that link I also made a reference to what I would like to do now: unseat all the current city council members).
Please set aside a Tuesday morning or evening, when the council is meeting, and come and see for yourself. For the real show be there for the "pre-council meeting," which in the distant past only took an hour, (because the real meeting was aired live on the radio, and had to start on time), but since we've been taken off the radio, can last two hours or longer, with as much bickering and infighting as one might see at a Kentucky family reunion after the Hatfield-McCoy wedding.
Yesterday was no exception. Often this council is recognized for not acting on issues of importance in a timely matter. Look how they stretched BINGO along for months. Look how they often don't introduce or approve a budget. Look how long it took to get paving started (conveniently just before an election). Look how long it took to pass the anti-smoking ordinance.
Yesterday, item number 12 on the agenda was "An Ordinance to Prohibit Electronic Messaging While Driving." The item was deleted from the agenda. A question was raised as to the origin of the ordinance; as to whether it came from the Public Safety Committee (headed by Jesse Matthews, I believe) or not. It did not, and it was decided that the item be sent to the Public Safety Committee, where it will probably languish for a while before being returned in the same form. Who knows. Let's just hope and pray that a high profile traffic accident does not occur on a Bessemer street and someone be killed because a driver was texting. No, I'm not naive enough to think an ordinance would prevent everyone from texting, but passing it would allow an educational effort from the city, and some publicity, and maybe a life would be saved.
And remember National Night Out, that oft criticised event that is supposed to bring residents onto their lit up porches and to their fences to talk with their neighbors? But that in the city of Bessemer means spending money for community events that draw people away from their homes and neighborhoods in the evening with the promise of free stuff.
Last year the council voted to give each council member $8000 to spend on their district's celebration, it seems. This year times are tough, and the amount agreed on was $2000 per district "pending identification of funds." In other words, as at least two council members mentioned, they have no idea how much money is in the general fund, so they cannot make a commitment to fund anything. Oh, and side-stepping a little bit, that includes Item 21, which was also deleted, which was to purchase "Two New (Trucks) for the Department of Public Improvements." This was dropped because, again, they did not know how much money they had or where the money would come from.
But, here is the news I wanted to report. In today's Birmingham News is an article headlined "Bessemer misses tax holiday deadline." The article explains that the deadline for a city or county to notify the department of revenue about participation was July 7, 2010.
The council yesterday, always a day late and a dollar short, passed item 22, A Resolution Authorizing a Sales Tax Holiday during the first weekend of August 7, 2010, and in Accordance with Act No. 2006-574, State of Alabama.
If course, it was not in accordance with the act because it was not filed on time.
So I called Carla Snellgrove at the Department of Revenue and asked her if the city could still participate. She told me that the city would not be able to be placed on the web site list of participating cities, and that there was a reason for the 30 day period, i.e., to allow time to do the web posting and to give retailers (who have to submit the tax payments) and consumers time to prepare and advertise and all.
If you look at the official list, you will see the dates that complying cities sent their notifications, and by "Bessemer" you will see a big blank line. Embarrassing, for a city whose residents probably need the tax break the most.
Ms. Snellgrove did say that the city could still decide not to collect the tax, but that it could not be added to the list.
In doing this, the council acted irresponsibly and unfairly to our local retailers, as even if the stores are allowed skip the tax, they will certainly lose sales to other cities that are on the official list.
There was much more that I had to withhold a snicker at during yesterday's pre-council meeting. I recorded much of it, and will save it for a day when I'm feeling down. Or, maybe I will make a short highlight reel for public display.