Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 11, 2014

Who is accountable?

The Register-News

---- — After two referendums and a tremendous effort by a lot of people, a referendum was passed to build a new high school.

In all of the pro and con publications during this campaign, I find nothing mentioning premium bonds and the plan to issue more bond debt. Every published flyer and other documents, including the media, tell everyone that we want to build a new high school for $62 million with $19.8 million participation by the property owners and taxpayers.

Somewhere in the school board lies the responsibility for not delivering what was promised. I remember the lengthy presentations and discussions at the park comparing renovation of the old school to schemes for a new school. I remember the constant reminders during the campaign for a new school that property tax increases would be $100 per $100,000 of assessed valuation.

I ask you: How many folks experienced something much higher than promised? They must think that we fell off the turnip truck on the way into town. The folks that worked so hard to get this referendum passed on the second try must be slightly embarrassed by what has become somewhat of a circus with board members resigning and being appointed along with all the ongoing discussion about the new school.

I think we would have by now been well on our way to satisfying the voters for a new school if whoever made the decision to change what the voters thought they had voted on had not happened.

I realize that public entities, whether it be schools or any other, are different. The only control the public has is at the voting booth. I have noticed a tendency in these entities for a lot of downloading in sharing the blame for poor decisions and a lot of singular hands up for the good decisions.

I personally tried unsuccessfully to tie a commitment to improved student achievement to the vote for a new school. I voted for the new school because so many folks who I think care about this city was for it.

I think all of this would be past history and we would be on our way to a $70 to $75 million school if the Past Presidents Council of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce had not brought this to the public’s attention. I say again, kudos!

I want to share with you an experience that to this day affects my thinking. Prior to coming to Mt. Vernon, I had been responsible for plants in Australia, Mexico, Texas and Kentucky. A sagacious old timer gave me some advice. It was part of his “3-C” philosophy and it applies in any endeavor whether you are running a tire plant or building a school house.

One of his C’s was credibility. His definition was to tell the folks the truth all the time every time. They may not like what you tell them but they will always respect the truth.