Greeson: Four Blind Mice cannot see what's right

Greeson: Four Blind Mice cannot see what's right

November 8th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Wednesday morning, four Hamilton County Commissioners tried to reach back into your pocket and grab almost $1 million of your money.

Are commissioners building something specific? Are they making a grand gesture in fighting the opioid crisis or using that money to fund efforts to feed hungry school kids?

Nope. It was a cash grab that lingered somewhere between a cheap 1970s British TV game show with the $100 bills blowing everywhere in a phone booth and the old-school politics of 1930s Louisiana.

The only thing missing were masks. Or maybe Hamilton County taxpayers' ATM codes.

Led by Tim "Butch Cassidy" Boyd and Dr. Warren "Sundance" Mackey, what started as an amendment to a needless resolution to increase commissioner's travel funds reignited the debate about discretionary funds that were rightly done away with two years ago.

From the attempts to boost travel funds of commissioners — something handled simply with better expense-account reporting — came the first salvo of what looks to be a cash-greedy portion of the Hamilton County Commission.

As much as we think the school system is going to ask for more money next year, we now know at least four Hamilton County commissioners want their six-figure cookie jar back. Here's telling you right now that sooner rather than later, some of those same commissioners are going to ask for a pay raise.

Boyd was adamant about how discretionary funds help people. Duh. Almost all charitable gifts do, Tim. But the truth in government funding is basic: Money does not change, and the $900K that Boyd and his cronies want has to come from somewhere in the budget.

Boyd went on and on about this gift or that, especially a $700 discretionary gift that allowed a kid who could not afford a trumpet to get one and be part of the school band.

Well, Commissioner Cassidy, hope that makes you warm and fuzzy. For the rest of us, charity starts at home, unless of course it can start at your government office or you can buy support in your district with taxpayer money.

"I want to buy music instruments for kids that need it. I want to buy uniforms for a soccer team," Boyd said. We are certain he means it. "When it gets to the pavement or the soccer field or the girls camp or the boys camp, it's not a line item to the mayor in the big picture of things."

Well, the rest of us, when we want to be charitable, make those decisions and give from our own pocket. Not from county coffers.

Truth be told, Tim, a lot of us would simply try to figure out a way to help that kid and his or her family and move on.

But it is not your right, your job or the role of government to take my tax dollars and decide that some kid in East Ridge gets $700 of our county's money because you feel sorry for them.

There were four right-thinking commissioners — Chairman Sabrina Smedley, Chip Baker, Randy Fairbanks and Greg Martin — who forced a 4-4 push in the vote because Katheryn Jeter was out sick Wednesday.

When Jeter returns, this will be back. Believe that. And remember, her predecessor on the commission, Greg Beck, sure liked discretionary funds to toss around the district.

Chester Bankston voted for it, and David Sharpe was all about it, too.

"This is about working for our constituents," Sharpe said, "about filling campaign promises."

Hmm. Extra money, compliments of the county, to fill campaign promises?

Said Baker: "Why don't we do this in the normal budgeting process? Curtail this discussion and move on to the opiate court and the other things that make a real difference."

Amen, Chip.

But here's betting that this is just the first of several conversations among Butch, Sundance and the rest of the posse trying to figure out a way to give away your money to causes close to them.

That's not good government. It's grandstanding.

It's wrong, and everyone other than four commissioners can see it.

Forget the Sneaky Six, now apparently we're dealing with a money grab from the commissioners we'll call the Four Blind Mice.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6343.

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