Things have been somewhat testy lately in Athens, Alabama. Recently, the City Council voted to raise taxes, and folks turned out in droves to attend the meetings. For some, it was the first City Council meeting that they had ever attended. There were some tears and harsh words, some decent points made from several perspectives, and thankfully none of it came to blows and fisticuffs. Conflict is never enjoyable for anyone, and conflict that involves money especially
I am not here to weigh in on my opinion as to whether or not I agree with the tax increase. I am as annoyed as the next American with what has become of our country in general as a result of taxes that are either poorly spent, or are procured from a premise that would make the Framers go over in a dead faint. I also know that the decision to raise the sales tax in Athens was not made capriciously, and it personally
affects those who voted for it. They will be paying, literally, for that which they chose.
“No one takes this lightly,” said the Mayor. He knows, as do all of us that there is a “general mistrust of government,” and that “the timing for a tax increase was especially tough.” People have hugely different opinions as to the role of government when it comes to land, services, and infrastructure. But, at the end of the day, the question that must be asked is, “Who are we when we disagree?”
In other words, if a decision has been made that is controversial, how do we handle ourselves? Good question. I was a bit taken back when I heard about some of the calls made and emails that were sent to City Hall after the vote. And, as I know that the Mayor is no stranger to conflict, either in Vietnam, Montgomery, and most recently in City Hall, what I find most important is observing how someone behaves when under fire.
So, I asked my own set of tough questions and waited to see what he would say. Thankfully, I found that per usual, his concern for the total well-being of Athenians eclipses that of his own, the principles that have always guided him, guide him still, and he challenged me with the following question: “Do we pray, come together, come up with ideas, get creative where it hurts, or do we allow ourselves to be divided?”
And, he added, “No matter what happens as a result of the tax increase, we still face the same issues. We must find a way to increase the level of retail recruitment, we must improve the quality of life, we must protect the public, and see to it that our kids’ educations and futures are secure.”
I know he doesn’t want to see us overtaken by Huntsville or Madison. I know that comparatively, we have some of the lowest taxes in the area. I know that the State of Alabama allows for municipalities choosing to raise local sales taxes. No one likes any of it, including the Mayor. I also know this, that one of the things that makes Ronnie roll is searching for good ideas that are not short sighted, and are equitable even when they are not perfect. And I would also add, if we put some prayer and passion into getting wisdom that exceeds our own, honorable solutions can indeed be our daily bread.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner