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Decision Points

27 Dec

Like our former President (who lives 100 miles up the road) who doesn’t know, that during a drought and entering a Texas summer, to not stock a pond in Crawford, I have reached a Decision Point.  One in which I do not know what to do.

When I was first elected, this place was a lawless cesspool.  The infrastructure had crashed and the State was about to take over the waste water plant.  Then the water.  The water lines were breaking all over the place, the VFD was non-existent (except for their monthly hamburger night), and the streets were in decay. 

Being the only “wet” town between Dallas and Texarkana, and without law, it was filled to the brim with every type of felon known.  From your garden variety drug dealer, to the drug users, alcoholics, and child-molester, we had them all.  Illegal immigration (thanks to Pilgrim’s Pride), was rampant and many people didn’t even speak the language.  La Fiesta, where knife and bottle fights were common, was occurring (esta noche) almost every weekend.  The night air on those nights was filled with the constant beat that sounded more like a polka than a Mexican hat dance.  A stark reminder to the few remaining good citizens, that they should stay indoors after dark.  

To put it plainly, I had no idea.  I had figured (thanks to wife’s advice to quit making fun of them and see what I could do to help) that I could just put my name on the ballot, lose, and then proceed in making fun of them.  The deadline for running was that very day!  (We had just moved here, three months prior, from an area of lakes.  I had worked for seven years on this sixty acre site.  Preparing it for what?  I didn’t even know at the time.  However, preferring land over water, we had given up a 3.5 acre home on a lake front property.  Besides!  I had a 5 acre lake on this place.  Who needed the water?  I certainly didn’t need the taxes!  Lake properties are the worst)  So, that’s what we did.  And that’s what I did.  I put my name on a ballot.

And won by a landslide!

The month afterwards, the people got up a petition of 110 signatures.  To run me out of office!  They didn’t want any change.  Nosiree.  Not around here.  They liked their cesspool.  They even contacted the local (Democrat owned) newspaper!   The rope ready for me at my second City Council meeting.

After I (basically) told them to ‘pound sand’, I went to work.

Now, seven (four more landslide elections) years later, we have refurbished the waste water plant, rebuilt most of our water lines and storage tanks, been through two engineering (crooks) firms, and repaved most of our roads.  The State uses us as an example that towns can meet their strict, sometimes stupid, requirements.  

I organized a police department, and we went to work.  (We haven’t had a murder since one of the typical groups of idiots were drinking beer in their front yard, when one of them decided to shoot another one through the head.  Oh yeah, I was on the scene until they were taken into custody)  The rats at gone now.  Some died off.  Some went to jail.  Most fled to safer ground.   And no more Fiestas!  No more music.  Our people often leave their keys in their cars at night.

We have what I would declare is the best LEO’s in East Texas.  I drill the Constitution into them.  They know.  We passed an ordinance making this an English speaking town, and our City employees are free to carry.  Either to work, or on the job.  They choose not to.  We now have accounting functions equivalent (or superior) to any municipality.  We have trained, key people, in every position and handle events without difficulty.  Even events that would shut down most towns completely. I am proud of our people.  They are professionals, and friends.  They are like my own family now.  But this is business…

My quandary is that I am now wondering if we still need the ‘System’.   I’m a believer in contract labor.  Contractors, for me, is the way to go.   An honest business can no longer succeed with employees.  Municipalities are no different.   What I have always done is to run the place like a business.  Not just another damned bureaucracy.  The people (the citizens) of this town are the ONLY people who matter.  The employees are just their representatives.  Not their masters.  This is why we maintain the lowest (.31 per $100) property tax in East Texas.  At least the lowest for any ‘legally’ run town.  We have cleaned up vacant and deserted lots, and are ready to grow again.  We have a railroad through town and even a major Interstate Truck Stop ready to open operations soon.

Even so, this last Xmas (the end of the year) brought us to a point of having to pay for vacation, sick, and personal time not used during the year.  This came to a substantial amount of money, and got me to (and this can be dangerous) thinking.   

Understand that I came up through the ranks of a major company.  A company, you know, and that works mainly with teamsters.  A labor intense company, with all of the trappings and conflicts that come along with it.  The last thing I want is to create another personnel nightmare.  And that is what, I think, I’m beginning to see.  Only in the light makeup, and guise, of government.  The people are beginning to make assumptions.  No doubt, demands (however light) will be next.  It’s a natural progression.

Am I going off my nut when I pine for the days of no governance?  We have our infrastructure up to speed now, and with the help of contractors, we could easily run the place with one full-time girl.  Am I crazy for continuing to think ‘outside of the box’?  You see where I’m going with this?  Even though we run lean-and-mean and have as good of people as there are, am I crazy? 

Or do I make that,

Decision

What would you do?

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12 Comments

Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

12 responses to “Decision Points

  1. Anon

    December 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Personally, I would tell them to pound sand. It is pretty damned obvious that if these public employees can’t seem to or want to see the writing on the wall, then so be it. Look at what the public employees of Detroit have brought upon themselves. They will be damned lucky to see 20% of their promised tax funded retirement funds(Oh well).

    Detroit was just the very beginning of what is going to befall a lot of cities and municipalities in the near future, and any one that just don’t see the massive train wreck ahead deserves to suffer the consequences.

     
    • Soffitrat

      December 27, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      And this is exactly what keeps going through my mind. We are headed for hard times, and the kiddies had better wake up. For everyone’s sake. Including their own. Especially their own!

       
  2. Dannyboy53

    December 27, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Anon has a very good point. If I’m reading you right ‘rat and you have employees wanting to organize (?), personally this is a move I would fight. If not and you are just wanting to streamline, frankly I don’t think that would be a good move unless the citizens agreed to it.

    The city employees may have the best of intentions but when they start to organize unions the outsiders will come in. To my way of thinking that is like leaving the chicken house door open, an invitation to any riff-raff that comes along and smells blood.

    Then you will have the scenario that Anon has described, in your own back yard. You folks have worked too damned hard and done too good a job to watch it go down the toilet.

     
    • (Soffitrat

      December 27, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      Oh, no! They won’t try that one. Not with me here. They know that (or they better had) much. But the decision to go off-grid or primative (so to speak) is difficult. Especially for a City! We can, but do we really want or need to? That is the question. This ain’t as easy as it seems. Like I said, they are good people. And like all people, they are just looking out for themselves. I expect this, however, to only grow.

       
  3. rogerunited

    December 28, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I would think that some admin functions like accounting could be contracted easily. I probably wouldn’t outsource infrastructure or police because I would worry about losing quality control.

    Serious question, why did you choose to move to an area which you describe as lawless?

     
    • Soffitrat

      December 28, 2013 at 10:40 am

      The town didn’t have two nickels to rub together. One of the reasons why had to do with a certain accounting firm. It had been 10 years since their last audit, and never got one. They were being charged a total of 12K per year for this. The CPA firm had told them that since they couldn’t audit what they had input, they talked the town into hiring another accountant. No doubt one that they played golf with and needed his green fees paid for. Yet, they never provided one shred of documentation the whole time! When I got here and asked for a Certified, they ran away. It was tax season and they just disappeared. And that was one of the more reputable Accounting firms in the town (County Seat) next door! It’s been hard, but I have an accountant now that really does his job. We’ve been getting Certified(s) every year now for around 5K per year and are planning on cutting those back to an audit every year, with a Certified every other year. That will save us some more money. Don’t forget that along with the PD, comes the clerk (certified), the schools, the Judge, and the City Attorney. Big expense. We also have two dogs. Did I mention that we are on an Interstate? A Texas Interstate? Our calls now days are practically non-existent.

      Why? That’s a damn good question. I guess I didn’t worry too much about the trash. Somebody has to take it out…

       
      • rogerunited

        December 28, 2013 at 10:46 am

        Were you planning on “taking out the trash” when you decided to move there?

         
        • Soffitrat

          December 28, 2013 at 10:53 am

          Nope. That was the last thing on my mind. I finally had it made! About to look like I was semi-retired. Have a pretty good (low labor) business and planned on working 3-4 hours a day, and sitting on my tractor the rest. That’s what I get for thinking.

           
  4. Tom Baugh

    December 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

    I sure don’t know the solution(s), but I’m very interested in what we can learn from everything you are doing. I think that the more the feds stumble and over-reach, the more localities and states will have to pick up the ball of actually representing their people and working in their interests.

    I think that the really interesting long-term nugget will be how to foster a climate in which your replacement, and so on, continue on the course you have set rather than depending on benevolent limited-government personalities here and there. Great work with training the LEOs as you have done, this is huge.

    I am impressed with how you have gotten involved at a local level and have made a huge difference. This is an important blog and I think your way of working through these local government issues will be a model for how the rest of us can make similar headway in our own localities. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

    Tom

     
    • Soffitrat

      December 28, 2013 at 10:10 am

      You are welcome, Tom. Of course, there is much more than I can possibly put on here and I am not alone. I inherited a group of Council members who were stuck in neutral. All they needed was some guidance, and even though I had never been involved in politics or government, that’s all I’ve done. They have been willing participants. They backed me, and for that I am grateful. Really, my foremost principle has been, “Principles before Personalities”. I have been through something like 50 people trying to find the right ones. It’s been a long, hard, slog. We had 50 years of neglect to overcome. I don’t mean to sound as if our people are bad. They are not. As far as employees go, they are great. Neither can I see going what I would call ‘off-grid’, or a return to the past, even if I could do that by myself. But nobody should test me. I could probably do that if I had to. It is something that I don’t fear. I’ll never let the tail wag the dog. I’ve never been good at playing ‘hostage’ to anyone. BTW, when we refurbished our WWTP, we did it with our own $275,000 financing, after turning down a 1.4 million dollar ‘shovel ready’ Obama money grant. That was a USDA grant, at the same interest rate, but with a 40 year payback. The engineers, alone, had almost $350,000 of that slotted for themselves. We knew that was a dream. When they ran us over budget, like all of them tend to do. It’s an amazingly crooked business. That’s how cities go broke! The average citizen would simply be amazed to see what really goes on. All Council members and Mayors hear when it comes to grants is “Free Money”. There is no such thing. Welcome aboard! Glad to have ya and look forward to your input and suggestions.

      I just have to add that (looking back on it) all of this was not without some self-interest on my part. Recognizing the class of people we had here, I did not relish the thought of leaving them hanging, draped, on my fences. Like we do here (and for the same reason) with coyotes. That would have been my only option, and even though it still might be, with a much higher class of people we have a pretty happy town now days. With a much better prognosis for survival.

       
      • Anon

        December 28, 2013 at 11:12 am

        Wow, to think that Birmingham Alabama could have learned from you, but overall what Tom said about the replacements continuing with the course is the hard one. It is said that the U.S. Congress started going against the Constitution during the 1st Congress(March 4, 1789-March 4, 1791).

        As the founders set up a stable and firm foundation, how could they, or how can we today create a system of governance that cannot corrupt itself? That is the hard one to figure out.

         
        • Soffitrat

          December 28, 2013 at 11:58 am

          I don’t know. I don’t think that we can. Not corrupt ourselves in our system of government. But then, neither can any other form of government. Among which, ours is still the best there is to combat that from happening. The key is punishment. Which we have allayed.

          We are doing research now into emergency statutes in Texas and our Constitutional powers under emergency conditions. I know that we have the right (under special circumstances) to commandeer certain items. Gasoline/Diesel would be among these. The City would have to pay the store owners, but I believe under certain circumstances it can take possession. Among other things we have is the railroad engines (generators), extended water sources for drinking, irrigation, and vacant land for planting, seed stores, freezers (beer stores), housing, etc., etc., etc. We also have a nice school and clinic here. We’ve done a lot of planning to prepare a town of around 800 for the worst, but the most important part we have. Trained and untrained labor, and other critical survival items. Lots of labor. We are also on a county line between two larger towns. Perfect place for a swap meet or farmer’s market. Barter/Trades Day every weekend. It won’t be fun and I pray it never happens.

          There are some emergency powers granted by the Texas Constitution. They can be found on the Texas Municipal League (TML) site.

          http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/SOTWDocs/GV/htm/GV.418.htm

          What is your nearest town doing?

           

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