The Maple Heights City Charter states that “provision shall be made for public hearings upon the appropriation ordinance.” Nevertheless, Council passed the budget tonight without a single hearing or even opportunity for an open dialogue about the budget.
This kind of behavior – which is typical – destroys the trust that the City needs to function. In an effort to get their way, city official are only making themselves look ridiculous and, in the long run, shooting themselves in the foot.
Deception to Fit the Occasion
At the meeting, Mayor Lansky emphatically stated, “We have never had public hearings on the budget.” Nevertheless, last year, Council held a public hearing on March 26th for the 2014 budget. This well-known factoid was included in an email sent by Maple Heights News which the Mayor quoted just moments before claiming no public hearings have ever been held. Still, Council ate it up – it was what they wanted to hear, no matter whether it was true.
He then goes on to say, “If you look in any dictionary, the definition [of a public hearing] is ‘a type of public meeting’; and that’s all it says.” Is that so, Mr. Mayor? Well, the Cambridge Business Dictionary has a different definition (as does every other dictionary) of public hearing, “an official meeting where members of the public hear the facts about a planned road, building, etc. and give their opinions about it.” This is nowhere close to his definition.
A public hearing always includes the opportunity for public input. This is our definition when it comes to public hearings for Planning & Zoning. It is the definition used for public hearings on the Annual Tax Budget. Nevertheless, city officials willfully chose to cast aside this definition to suite their needs. They did not want any more questions or discussion on the budget.
Why is this important? Because it shows that they don’t care what you, the resident, think. Your opinion is irrelevant, except at election time. How does it make you feel when you are not notified about the budget, nor given the budget to review, nor given a chance to speak intelligently about it?
Second, with the exception of Councilman Jackson, no one even considered the fact that we should follow the Charter – our own rules. How can we expect residents, businesses and contractors to abide by the rules when we disregard them?
Businesses are avoiding Maple Heights because they never know what to expect from City officials. Rules change at the drop of a hat. Laws are enforced capriciously. You cannot run a business in this type of setting.
Residents and businesses are leaving. Levies are failing. Why? Because people do not trust Maple Heights city officials. These officials, who persistently talk about more levies, are only shooting themselves in the foot by such flagrant disregard for the law and the dignity of residents.