The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Western Tribune Column from Sept. 19

One visit to a Bessemer City Council is all it takes to realize that DNC does not stand for Democratic National Committee; it stands for Do Nothing Council.

On Tuesday, September 11, the Bessemer City Council reconvened to finish up a meeting they started the week before. With one item remaining uncompleted, a public hearing about incentives for a proposed movie theatre, the meeting was over almost before it started, since no one from the public was there to speak on the issue.

But plenty of people were there to speak about the bond issue that needs to be passed so Bessemer can fulfill its obligation to build a $4.5 million water line to Alabaster. Once completed, the substantial amount of water piped to that city will bring welcome revenue to Bessemer.

But they refused to hear us. They adjourned and went in to a planning session. We followed them. While citizen participation is not a regular part of planning sessions, there is plenty that citizens can learn from attending.

Take the proposed noise ordinance, for instance. The council has been considering this for years, and a revised ordinance has been before them for months. Will it ever be enacted?

Or the smoking ordinance. No one denies the ordinance would be good for the health of Bessemer residents, and in many cities restaurant business is unaffected or actually increases after such laws are enacted. A published review of 97 studies on the economic effects of smoking ordinances backs this up. But our council has delayed passage of the ordinance and once something is delayed, who knows what will happen.

Back to the water bond issue. By now, the council has met again and maybe this issue is resolved. But not without a great effort by the Bessemer Neighborhood Association and others concerned about rising utility bills. The only reason the Association took the actions they did; handing out flyers, protesting, sending faxes and making calls, was because of council members who were putting the interest of one person above that of 30,000 residents of Bessemer and other Bessemer Water Service Customers.

Elected officials need to be reminded from time to time why they are in the positions they have been elected to, and who put them there. I hope our efforts were successful. If not, more reminders and more action will be in store.

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