Nutshell: Councilmembers are assembling invitation-only, pro-tax committees that include themselves and [mis]characterizing them as "independent" before any public comment is received, council discussion occurs, or public voting on the storm drain tax measure is conducted. That's backwards.
Even casual watchers of recent Town Council meetings were aware of several councilmembers' desire to have one or more citizens groups advocate for the proposed storm drain fee in a "community outreach" effort.
That's fine, although some residents believe that if the proposed tax could stand on its own merits, it wouldn't require a formal outreach effort and active recruiting and support from the council chambers.
Hopefully the information from these purportedly "independent" committees will be more accurate than what the town itself says, as we deconstructed in our Fact Check series here.
Had it stopped at that, most residents would be shrugging. Instead, here's the bitter pill of reality:
During the most recent council meeting on January 24, however, councilmember enthusiasm became a public lesson as to how this council and town operate: decisions are quite clearly made before any residents' comments or input occur, and even before the council itself engages in public discussion and voting.
Indeed, Mayor Trotter directly solicited participation and advocacy from one resident in the audience at the most recent council meeting. It strikes us as odd - and perhaps inappropriate - that the Mayor is soliciting pro-tax troops from the dais.
What's more concerning, however, is that this overt solicitation followed a fairly long monologue on how Trotter has already assembled an "independent committee" which includes himself and Councilmember Wykle, among undisclosed others. All this occurring before the council even voted to proceed with the proposed storm drain measure.
Need more? Think about that stormwater fee public notice letter you received:
Council meeting the evening of 1/24
Notice letter arrives in mailboxes 1/29, three business days later
It's remarkable how quickly the town was able to custom print envelopes, letters, and get them mailed. Or maybe "not so much" if everything was signed, sealed and delivered beforehand. Draw your own conclusions.
This display should give rise to some important questions about governance and representation:
Are council meetings and decisions just a facade?
Do residents have a real opportunity to provide meaningful input and comment that is considered, when the council appears to have made decisions before the meetings?
How can a committee be "independent" when it is assembled by councilmembers and they intend to be active participants?
1/24 Council Meeting at 2:40:00 and 2:41:45