13th 2011
Words Signifying Nothing

Posted under That's Life Columns

It is really easy to “talk the talk”.  It is quite a different thing to back it up with actions.  Some of us say we believe in freedom, then sit like slack jawed dummies when it comes time to take action.  Such were the many occurrences at last Tuesday’s council meeting.


I have said this many times before.  We are in a war, at least for the average everyday citizen whose rights and freedoms are continually stripped away that is.  Just when I think progress is being made, at least two councilmen go brain dead.  Maybe the subject matter isn’t personally interesting to them, which is the excuse I make for the public not being involved, but our jobs as councilmen mean everything is to be considered in detail and with great importance.  Not every item can be related to marijuana or salary issues.


I noticed a lot of four to one votes during this meeting.  Was it because the points weren’t well made?  Does the budget and public monies become less of a concern the nearer we are to balancing the budget?  Is this going to become nothing more than the councils of the past which got little done other than to find ways to raise taxes and restrict certain people while harassing and attempting to intimidate them into compliance with their bogus laws?


I went to Oregon this last weekend for the wedding of my nephew.  I use to travel there fairly frequently but haven’t been up there in a few years.  Oregon is a good example of what progressive legislators do to their own people when given the opportunity.


It has been illegal to pump your own gas at a service station for some 30 years or more.  I use to ignore the law and pump my own because I didn’t need some fool banging the nozzle on the side of my car and chipping the paint.  Evidently a lot of other people ignored the law too.


Now, according to the attendant pumping gas, if you are caught the fine is $500 for you and $500 for the station owner plus the attendant loses his job.  I am surprised they just don’t shoot you for such a horrendous violation of the law.


Maybe this is Oregon’s idea of “putting people back to work” as I saw on a number of signs on the freeway.  Is this really what progressive liberals believe constitutes productive work which generates some level of self esteem?  Most of us from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s remember full service gas stations.  I don’t recall any of the attendants stating that is what they planned to do the rest of their lives.  The larger point is we are all pretty much capable of pumping our own gas and we don’t need the nanny State telling us not to for some higher purpose of their own.


I asked to have the weed abatement ordinance brought back for discussion at this meeting.  There was a guy on Priddy Drive named Stu who complained about unequal enforcement of this law.  Rather than taking advantage of the opportunity, Stu stayed home to continue playing Farmville, bake a cake, or make some candy.  Stu was not the only one, however.


We got treated to listening to the police department give their one sided version of how well they do their job.  Once again it was apparent that this is still a complaint driven ordinance, which is discriminatory by nature.  At least Christina Gastelum, our code enforcement officer, is supposedly addressing properties as she sees them.  I would make you a bet that I could travel down any street where a citation or complaint is made and find other situations that weren’t addressed.  I can guarantee you that I know of at least one address where material and weeds have sat for years without one complaint.


This is not the real problem though.  The problem is thinking that we have a problem and that is that some homeowners need to be “forced” to comply with someone else’s idea of “appropriate appearance”.  The next thing city hall will want to regulate is how you dress.  No more “flip flops” at council meetings.  Totally inappropriate …


One larger issue related to freedom and protection FROM the government was on placing tax liens against properties which weren’t current in payments on garbage and sewer bills.  You can lose your home to a forced tax sale using the endorsed method.  Dave Scholl brought up the option of placing a mechanic’s lien on the property which allows the money to be collected upon the voluntary sale of the property.


What was more of a concern was the fact that charges were being made to properties where there was no service being used, such as vacant homes.  Both the city and the garbage company say they monitor these types of situations but I have my doubts.  Even if eventually verified, how long did they charge before discontinuing this?


We also had an issue of going out to bid for legal notices.  For a council so concerned about spending money we don’t have, there wasn’t any support for eliminating the wasteful practice of publishing in both papers of general circulation.  On top of that, forcing high insurance requirements adds to the cost to the city.  All of this plus other points made by Scholl were ignored.


Changing the personnel rules to delineate certain specific problematic behavior seems rather pointed to me.  While our sitting attorney/councilman was “interpreting” the code to provide loopholes, I see it as again discriminatory and a tool for harassment of specific employees.  We didn’t have all of the code in front of us, so this was put off.  The mayor, as usual, was upset that this wasn’t simply railroaded through.  You can’t claim that it is too difficult to put together a laundry list of bad behavior as opposed to simply calling it “conduct unbecoming” when you are in essence putting together or adding to that laundry list.


The council, well almost all of the council, made comments on how “difficult” it was to negotiate the contract with the police department and its employees.  I didn’t find it difficult at all.  Perhaps this was an attempt to allow the department to “save face” as they cooperatively took a pay cut.  I am acutely aware of the impact that less pay will have on employees.  I am just as aware of the failure of the city to balance its budget and get problems solved for its citizens because of unwarranted pay and unsustainable benefit packages.


If you know what you are attempting to achieve going in, it isn’t difficult at all.  It isn’t personal, but with 80% or more of the budget being personnel, it will affect people personally.  The only difficulty is in getting the leaders of the city to actually plan for “sustaining” services by creating a plan, a long range plan, with the realization that our tax money has other uses than paying wages and gold plated retirement benefits.


Finally we had the landscape and lighting assessments up for review once again.  If I recall correctly, one councilman (other than myself) had major problems with the engineer’s report and the cost allocations contained therein.  Maybe you believe that there is some “economic benefit” in living in a home abutting Pitt School Road so that you have to pay more for your lighting generated on Pitt School besides that down your street.  I don’t.


We all use the major thoroughfares but some of us pay nothing.  Again, silence from the rest of the council.  I am searching for my mask as I feel like the Lone Ranger.


So what does this all mean to you?  Nothing is going to change with this type of attitude.  We all complain about overbearing government but even when we get in office, some of us won’t attempt to change or repeal laws we know don’t serve the public’s, and I mean all of the citizens’, best interests.


Does this mean that I want everyone to go along with my programs?  Unless you can give me valid reasons for doing otherwise, yes.  There is no purpose to doing all of the homework, research, and analysis just to have the larger group “pooh-pooh” the facts with some statement such as that is the way we always do it.  Isn’t that exactly what the problem is?  We complain about the situation but expect doing the same thing will yield different results.  Lunacy …


The regular people of Dixon need to get involved.  You still aren’t attending council meetings.  You aren’t protesting.  Maybe you just don’t care or are too busy building model airplanes or making home brew.  I have to start questioning why I care because of this.  And that’s when the other side wins …


* * * * *

I thought it was interesting to hear the fire chief talk about the complaints he had about legalized fireworks.  I would bet these are the same ne’er-do-wells who didn’t want them back in the first place.  Perhaps the chief, or chiefs, would have been better off talking to all of the families and neighbors, including many from out of town, who enjoyed having the opportunity to “party” like it was the Fourth of July.  Nothing like a little freedom …

* * * * *

Diane Hefner, a former planning commissioner, died over the weekend.  The mayor, in his inimitable deprecatory style, praised Diane for having to put up with criticism while in office.  As the mayor has little idea of the responsibility of planning commissioners, and as this was a key component of my criticism of Diane from time to time, I have a few words on the subject.


“We are all here to do what we are here to do.”  Diane felt it was her personal responsibility to apply her landscape architecture and individual plant knowledge as a service to those attempting to get plans approved for their new buildings.  I remember her stating that she didn’t feel comfortable approving certain plants that she knew would have a problem surviving in Dixon.  While some might call this noble, I viewed it as meddling.  Advice is one thing.  Mandating or eliminating choice is quite different.


You might think that because of this, I didn’t like Diane.  That is incorrect.  It is the commissioners’ role to review design for structural integrity, safety, and compatibility with surrounding existing structures rather than stifling personal choice through regulation of paint colors or plant materials.  This point was made over and over, yet some can’t handle constructive criticism.


As with most people with whom I interact, I learned from Diane.  “Peter Pan Agapanthus is very susceptible to boron toxicity”.  Those are the miniature variety of lily of the Nile planted widely in our city.


You don’t have to agree with a person to enjoy interacting with him or her.  I always found Diane to be very pleasant and personable.  I, for one, will miss her.  And that is more than just words …


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