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.