[Reprint, with updates, because it matters]
Nutshell: Councilmembers assembled an invitation-only, pro-tax committee that includes themselves and [mis]characterized it as "independent" before any public comment was received - or council discussion and public voting occurred - on the storm drain tax measure.
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.
The information from these purportedly "independent" committees is no more accurate than what the town itself says, as we deconstructed in our Fact Check series here.
Here are some members of the "independent" committee that the group itself and others contend is independent and unbiased:
Here's another bitter pill of reality:
During the council meeting on January 24, 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.
Mayor Trotter engaged in a fairly long monologue on how he and Councilmember Wykle already assembled this "independent committee" which includes themselves, among other current and former town officials.
All this occurring before the council even voted to proceed with the proposed storm drain measure.
The monologue was followed by an overt solicitation from the dais of one citizen member of the audience to participate in the group.
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, the participants selected by councilmembers, and they intend to be active participants?
1/24 Council Meeting at 2:40:00 and 2:41:45