Yesterday, I innocently posted a photo of some of the new Christmas lights going up in downtown Canton. As a professional designer, I was simply disgusted by the lights. They look cheap, plastic and way out of scale. Furthermore, the lights themselves, do not represent "Christmas" to me at all. There appears to be four different designs: a generic stylized Christmas tree, red and green candy canes with giant holly leaves, a "shooting star," and what I refer to as alien angels.
By the comments on my post, it appears many fellow Canton citizens feel the same way about these lights. I believe these lights provide tangible evidence of how our city government is operating, and we all need to play closer attention to the decisions that impact the character and quality of our town.
Here are the facts that were presented in the last few City Council meetings:
- The city allocated $30,000 for new Christmas lights.
- The lights were selected by the Streets Dept and the City Manager without any input from the public, DDA or Main Street program.
- Photos of the new lights were passed around to the Council, and they expressed their approval with no comments or questions.
- In the Council Meeting on 11/22/12, the final vote to fund the new lights was on the consent agenda which passed unanimously.
- After Sandy McGrew made comments about the budget in the 10 minute public input on 11/22, Councilman Bill Bryan stated that maybe they should reconsider the $30,000 cost of the lights. Councilman John Beresford replied, "Too late. They are already here." Therefore, the lights were purchased and delivered before the final vote to fund them had officially been taken.
These are the KNOWN facts according to the minutes taken at City Council meetings. As some of you may know, five of the six Councilmen also voted to strip the Mayor of his staff in the same meeting. His staff includes an Administrative Assistant and the Main Street Director - who really reports to the Main Street Board. Bill Bryan introduced the motion as a means of "saving the taxpayers' money." It was later revealed the motion was made in retaliation for the Mayor's idea of consolidating the Fire Dept. with the County. Bryan's motion was supported by Jack Goodwin, Bob Rush, Hooky Huffman and John Beresford. Glen Cummings was the only no vote. In statements made by several of the Councilmen, they had agreed to this motion OUTSIDE normal Council meetings, and the motion was a "done deal."
The last time our Council presented us with a "done deal" was during the East Main Street zoning battle. After similar backroom and under the table deals, we were told that a commercial business would be allowed to open in the heart of the historical residential section of E. Main Street. We fought back, raised awareness and were successful in protecting the majority of our residential district. I bring up the East Main Street battle as an example of what can happen when the citizens get complacent and do not pay attention to what is happening at City Hall.
For me, these new "Christmas" lights are a very visible wake up call. These decisions are being made by a Council that appears to be out of touch with their constituents, and more importantly, one that is no longer interested in our opinion. In the same meeting where five of them voted to strip the Mayor of his assistant to "save money," they also voted, unanimously, to fund $30,000 for these tacky Christmas light. In addition, they voted to fund $51,000 for new equipment to show movies in the Canton Theatre on First Fridays. While nice, this is not in line with saving money for the taxpayers. Even more appalling, they also agreed to increase their salaries! Granted, our Council pay is ridiculously low, but you don't eliminate a city employee in an effort to save money at the same meeting where you vote to increase your own salary!
If you are equally appalled by these new "Christmas" lights and other recent Council antics, I URGE you to attend City Council meetings and observe them in action. The next Council meeting is Thursday, Dec. 6, at 6 PM in Council Chambers at City Hall, 3rd Floor. At the beginning of every meeting, there is a 10 minute Public Input, and anyone can sign up to speak about anything that is on their mind. PLEASE let your voice be heard! Collectively, we need to remind the Council who they represent and hold them accountable for their decisions. We also need to urge them to work together in a manner that is civilized, professional and in the best interest of our citizens.
I apologize for the long rant, but I still care enough about the future of Canton to not sit back and let them do whatever they want without questions. These Christmas lights should be a visible sign of what happens when we are not engaged. We need everyone to get involved and light a brighter path for our city.
Thanks for listening!
Main Street Canton Chair