In Today’s Herald: Privilege Tax Repeal Fails

Details about the city council’s decision on Tuesday not to repeal the Business Privilege Tax can be found in Gordon Anderson’s story in today’s Herald. Chelsea Kellner will have a follow-up story later this week, and The Herald’s Editorial Board addresses the vote (and the meeting) in Thursday’s edition.

It was simply a wacky night at City Hall, which started with Department of Transportation officials apparently telling anti-tax ralliers they couldn’t park near City Hall and ended with me stopping to tell Councilman Steve Brewer that I thought he did a truly excellent job in giving his thoughts and remarks about the BPT. I congratulated Steve, who led the fight for the tax, because of the content and sincerity of his remarks.

In between, what we saw:

– a fairly large crowd of mostly anti-tax citizens showed up. They ate hot dogs prepared off-site (their cooker was banned by the city, about 30 people told me) and some wore rather large stickers proclaiming their opposition to the BPT on their shirts. I had flashes of Roy Williams and his KU sticker in San Antonio.

– at the beginning of the meeting, Councilman Mike Stone tried to place on the agenda a discussion about dropping the city’s property tax rate. I’m not sure from a protocol standpoint how sound his attempt was, but it was thwarted when the vote to make it part of the agenda failed. Maybe Stone was trying to score points with the anti-tax crowd by suggesting a discussion about property taxes, and maybe not…but it was an unusual move. I haven’t checked with the Institute of Government, but from a procedural standpoint, it was sticky. The council probably did the right thing by preferring that the discussion take place at a Law & Finance meeting. Stone, I’m sure, will be ready at the next L&F session. Property tax rates became a significant part of the discussion Tuesday, and now that that cat’s out of the bag, it’ll be hard to get it back in. Believe me, we have five cats.

– 9 members of the public signed up under the “public comment” part of the agenda, which is normally held at the close of the meeting. I assumed, like most of them did, that they would get to speak before the vote on the BPT was taken. But along the way, someone forgot to ask that the time for comments be moved in the agenda to before the vote, and the vote happened first. It was an honest oversight, but it ticked off a LOT of people. Nine folks still spoke after the vote, and the fact that the vote had already taken place made the time more emotionally-charged. I was impressed by the eloquence and passion of all the speakers. I thought one or two of them were going to jump up on the riser and kick some city council hiney, but fortunately they didn’t. (Hiney? Or heiny?)

– Charles Taylor raised some valid questions about the BPT. City Manager Hal Hegwer had few answers for him. Former City Manager Leonard Barefoot wasn’t there, but I’m sure he was in spirit.

– members of the Sanford Fire Department were there. I’m not sure if they were there for crowd control or if they wanted to see how the tax vote went down. Either way, things heated up before the meeting adjourned, but no hoses were needed.

– the problem with Taylor’s remarks before the vote is that they came off as attacks on Steve Brewer, Linwood Mann, Walter McNeill and J. D. Williams. It made Taylor appear overzealous and spiteful. Still, the lack of answers made it look like the city is making decisions about this tax on the fly, which isn’t a good thing. But Taylor should have known better.

– everyone agreed that no taxes were fair…but no one even mentioned it was April 15th!!

– the crowd applauded lustily on several occasions. And on some occasions not so lustily. Let’s just say those applauding were in two groups: the “Wronged” and the “Wright.” The person formerly known as Mike Stone’s opponent in the last council race clapped hands whenever someone spoke in favor of the tax or whenever a “for tax” council member said something…everyone else clapped when the reverse was done. It was like watching a guy in a Wolfpack shirt doing the wave by himself in the Dean Dome.

– Richard Littiken, the chairman of the Lee County Republican Party, was there “bringing it on.” ‘Nuff said about that. (I’ll add that Richard was wearing a suit and was a dapper clapper.)

– Mayor Cornelia Olive has a sign at her place in the chambers reminding her to tell people to turn off their cell phones at the start of each meeting. She did remind us, but perhaps they should start having folks check them at the door. I counted three rings, a chirp and one old Steely Dan song.

All in all, it was a truly fun night. I wish you’d been there.


7 Responses to In Today’s Herald: Privilege Tax Repeal Fails

  1. rick says:

    “All in all, it was a truly fun night. I wish you’d been there.”

    Why? The council didn’t care enought to hear the public before the vote.
    Whether it was “an honest oversight” or not is irrelevant — it should not have happened. As soon as folks realized the error, there should have been a way to hold the vote until *afterwards*

  2. PORTER says:

    Rick…. if you check into the rules of procedure for council meetings you can find out how and when the public can speak at meetings. My understanding is you get your name on the agenda to speak. And it is last item on the agenda. So if you want to speak on for /against vote you might want to go to the meeting before the night of the vote.
    Council meetings have public speaking offered before an item is to be voted on ahead of time so the board has time to hear some views of the people. But you can be sure of one thing they also hear from people every day before the night of voting. So they have to take all sides at hand in making a decision.
    THe mayor should have told the no-group of the procedures since they must have forgot and never knew.
    I would rather be a know-group than a no-group any day.I find yes goes a long way! And I find Sanford to be a great city!! The no-group even spoke of Wake Co. to compare us to!! Who was running out of water ??!!! It wasn’t Snaford… Maybe Sanford does something right!!

  3. rick says:

    My issue was that (as far as I could tell), those that signed up to speak were *supposed* to have been heard *before* the vote. But, due to some procedural snafu, the public was was given the opportunity to speak only *after* the vote.

  4. Tammy Hebert says:

    Porter – in government procedure you are to ask for discussion before a vote on a motion is made. It is called Robert’s Rules of Order and Sanford government hasn’t a clue as to how that works. They are to have people sign up before the meeting who wish to speak and then allow them to speak during discussion. Your option of going to the meeting before – the law and finance -well they don’t allow people to speak at that one at all. So, yes Sanford Government Officials screwed up again – but at least they are consistent in that they screw up the same way all the time..they never learn 🙂
    So, sorry you aren’t in the Know group afterall. But there is nothing wrong with being on the no side as somethings are done quite wrong around here and behind closed doors. Seems they forget that the elected officials are elected to serve the people that elect them not serve themselves. And our new city manager needs to find out how this system works so when asked questions he might for once have an answer.
    There is a very corrupt group of city workers that need to be taken to task.
    We’ll see – seems election times are proving that the “yes” group isn’t as popular as they think are they?

  5. PORTER says:

    Liked your comments! Check with the city attorney on the policies for public comments. I’m not sure you realized the meeting we are referring to was for a vote not a public hearing. Anytime the public makes comments before the meeting or a vote is at a public hearing and they had that time at a earlier meeting. And I know I probably do not know the order of the council meetings as the attorney is, but check with her and don’t take my word for it or the other council that were against the tax. But they were business owners anyway. And the councilmen and city manager had discussions on this and had lots of consideration before deciding to choose this tax anyway. Many cities have this tax. Did I say I was in the Know group ? I was putting some humor on the plate! Sorry you didn’t get it. Where is your humor?
    I do think the city mayor made a mistake not explaining the reason for the public speaking being last. The ones that voted yes have had many comments to support their vote they have and they are very much respected. What did the no group have to replace the tax as we are in need for improving our city.? Rick- who told you they were to speak before the vote? They misinformed you as I commented on my understanding on the procedure of the meetings. And when I have attended the meetings, public speakers have always spoke at the end . When the election isn’t a major one you don’t have as many people come out to vote. I heard one person say when I was voting, “You mean I just get to vote for one thing,well if I had known that I would not come”. And I don’t see anyone corrupt in the city, but just hard workers trying to take care of our city. Even the ones I may not agree with are trying to do something for our city. And if they are so upset over not getting their vote go their way maybe that was the only purpose in getting elected.And to your comment of elected officials serving themselves, how are they getting a ‘self ‘anything out of this? We need to be supportive of our government even if we can’t get everything our way.I do think if the businesses see how this tax will affect them ,they will not be so disappointed.

  6. gordonanderson says:


    A minor correction to your post re: Robert’s Rules of Order. The procedure is as follows: a member of the body in question makes a motion. If it is seconded, the motion is then open for discussion, but only by members of the body. People in the audience could theoretically be recognized to speak by the chairperson, but that rarely happens. So, at that time, the floor is not usually open for speaking on issues by members of the public.

    That said, I don’t really have a dog in the business privilege tax fight, and I think the Sanford City Council certainly made a big mistake by not moving their period of public comments (on any matter) to the beginning of the agenda, even if only for that meeting. The public comment section can go anywhere on an agenda (the Broadway Town Council has theirs toward the beginning of their meeting agenda, before votes are taken on anything), so the Sanford council probably should have had something like that in mind for that particular meeting.

  7. rick says:

    porter: no one specifically said that folks would be able to comment before the vote, but that was the the perception. Why in the world would _anyone_ want to speak _after_ the vote? The mayor noted that due to a proedural issue, comments would be held after the vote (I believe due to the fact that a motion was made for a vote). It seems to me that _if_ the council _really_ wanted public input during the meeting, they would have found a way to have folks speak first — especially after realizing the mistake.

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