OPINION – There is a timeless bit of wisdom that says what a person does screams so loudly in our ears that we can hardly hear what they say.
When it comes to the $550,000 federal grant awarded the City of St. George for the municipal airport or, to be exact, to help the community “enhance its air travel needs,” I would assert the saying would apply rather acutely. Never mind what they are saying, what have they done and what will they do with our money?
In an article in St. George News last week, it is made quite clear, citing Assistant City Manager Marc Mortensen, that the City Council will have the final say-so in how any and all of that “airport stimulus” money is allocated.
Sounds appropriate right?
Unless of course you take into account how they have handled your money in the past in situations like, say, the now safe to call “occasionally operational” carousel.
Last year, quite a commotion was made over the City Council’s unanimous decision to spend close to $300,000 of specially allocated taxpayer dollars on the project.
In and of itself the decision was questionable, but not nearly as much as the somewhat less than upfront way it was made.
To recap, on June 30, 2011, the City Council voted unanimously retroactively to purchase and install the carnival ride when, in point of fact, it had already been purchased at the time of that vote and was near completion. That is, concrete pad poured, ticket booth built, electrical complete, and ride ready to go for the big Fourth of July grand opening.
When asked about the appearance that the cart had been placed before the horse, so to speak, Mortensen told St. George News that a special meeting had been held on June 16 whereby the City Council voted to amend the budget for the project, that after that meeting the project was completed, then the decision was ratified in the June 30 vote.
That he could keep a straight face when he told me this is a testament to his political savvy and future as a career politician.
At present, the minutes on that special session have not been published for the public, so we’ll have to take Mortensen’s word that it actually happened and that the city was able to procure funds for or had the funds for, plan and develop, purchase and install a $300,000 project in less than 20 business days.
Perhaps they could give instructional classes to the rest of the state and federal agencies on how to expediently waste taxpayer money because they sure set a record here.
The ride has been riddled with problems since its opening and although the city reports a profit in its first year, it still hardly passes the “ends justifies the means” litmus test.
It is appearing more and more like a rush decision was made to make an impulsive purchase of a sub-par piece of pretty equipment that was not worth much more than the scrap it would sell for.
Now, grant money is not taxpayer money, to be true. It is as good as free money for the city to do with as it sees fit. But if the carousel scenario depicts – with any measure of accuracy – the mindset of our elected leaders towards their constituency, i.e. how gullible they think we are, then we can count on a little frivolous spending, folks.
It is worth mentioning in matters involving the airport that at least three of your elected representatives in St. George were awarded lucrative contracts on the construction of that airport.
A feat that somehow manages not to be considered a conflict of interest in St. George; in most areas of the country, this would be considered tantamount to insider trading, wouldn’t it?
Just because it is legal, is it ethical?
I often say that correlation, while not causation, is frequently indicative. This recent award of a large sum of money to the city, “you” are the city, will be a grand opportunity to observe with much scrutiny how your city officials spend your money on your behalf.
By the way, is that carousel up and running this week? My kids keep asking to ride it.
Get involved St. George. Question your leaders and demand honest, forthright answers. Regular City Council Meeting is this Thursday.
See you out there.
Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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