This was on the city’s website.  This tells me a lot.  #1, The mayor is  mad at the Sentinel for allowing this rants and raves column to publish anonymous rants.  He openly criticizes it–which means the Rants & Raves column may soon be a thing of the past.  It’s written as more of an incendiary lecture/rant than a letter to the editor, just like when the county verbally attacked Seigel (Douglas Neighbor writer) last year for coming out with an article that said the county was making plans for the proposed new jail.  He’s mad at citizens who think the city spending money on the Cultural Arts Center and the Hydrangea Festival (which drew a large crowd, but probably not over 5,000 people–I have yet to hear an estimate of attendance) is wasteful.  The mayor is  mad at citizens who think the CITI TV station is just a waste of money. 

There is a space for the Rants & Raves column on the Sentinel’s website–but it’s not there.  The editorial page is missing as well.

 LETTER TO EDITOR OF THE DOUGLAS COUNTY SENTINEL:

22 job slots. Of these 22 job slots, 16 were occupied by City employees who are being laid off. 16 new employees even though there was not work for those new employees or if the City government had announced that 16 employees with little to do were going to be kept on the payroll even though taxes would have to be increased to pay their salaries. I’m sure there would have been charges of “screwed-up priorities” and worse. Many of the The Douglas County Sentinel recently printed several “rants and raves” concerning the City of Douglasville’s May 18 decision to eliminate

This was a tough decision, because most of these individuals have been good employees. But the City of Douglasville, as an employer, is just like employers in the private sector: When your income drops and there is not enough work to keep all your employees fully engaged, steps must be taken to make sure expenses are cut so they don’t continue to exceed your revenues. This is what the City of Douglasville has done.

One writer asked who will do the work of the employees whose jobs have been eliminated. One Code Enforcement position was eliminated, but the City still has three employees doing code enforcement. The City had two Deputy Police Chiefs; now, one Deputy Chief position has been eliminated and the person in that position has been promoted to fill the position at Police Chief. In Maintenance and Sanitation, the Deputy Director’s duties have been assigned to other personnel in that department. When the construction industry fell on terrible times, the work load of the City’s Development Services Department dropped dramatically; and, as a result, there was not enough work for the staff in this part of City government.  I also didn’t know winter was coming so soon.

I wonder what the writers of some of the “rants & raves” would have written if the City government had announced it was going to use taxpayer money to hire positions cut by the City –permit Coordinator, Building Inspector, Development and zoning Official –were deleted because the work no longer was there to be done. Those duties have been reassigned to other people without hurting City services.

Of the 22 job slots, 9 were occupied by individuals who will remain on the payroll until June 30. They were not “sent home with nothing.” The City of Douglasville has one of the best municipal government benefit retirement packages available in Georgia. Also, former City employees do not lose their retirement benefits; but will start receiving them at age 65, which is more than what frequently happens in the private sector.

Another 7 employees will lose their jobs at the end of september. We can reduce 2 Records Clerk positions in the police Department because police officers soon will prepare and file their reports electronically, instead of writing them out and then having Records Clerks manually input them into a computer. And since the office staff at Hunter Park will move to Davis Park for almost a year while Hunter Park is renovated, we won’t need all of the staff the City now employs. (Once we move back to Hunter Park, we’ll look for office employees and preference will be given to the former City workers.) With Hunter Park closed and winter coming, we won’t need all our the Parks and Recreation Department’s maintenance workers; therefore, 3 will be released, though they may be re-hired through an agreement with the general contractor at Hunter Park to do demolition and other work.

Permit me correct one consistent error in the “rants & raves.” The City government did not spend any money on the retirement party for Police Chief Joe Whisenant. And the $300,000 “retirement package” figure must have been pulled out of the blue. Under a resignation agreement with Chief Whisenant, the City is paying him the sum of $101,000; however, his salary and fringe benefits for the next 12 months would have cost the City some $128,600. And, as noted above, we now have one Chief and one Deputy Chief and not one Chief and two Deputy Chiefs. I believe the Police Department will maintain its same high quality services to our citizens while saving money annually on salaries for the department’s top management.

Before I close, let me comment on the planned new Conference Center in Downtown Douglasville. It will paid for with funds from a special room tax on local hotel and motel customers, from rental charges to those who will use the new Conference Center, and from an excise tax on rental vehicles. These are special revenue sources and are not part of the City’s general revenues which had provided salary funds for those individuals who are being laid off.

Of course, it’s easy to criticize a particular action by any one or any organization, including the City of Douglasville government. And while none of us likes to be criticized or “second-guessed,” it’s great to live in a nation where people can comment on and criticize their government …even if it is by anonymous means such as “rants & raves” in a newspaper, much like graffiti on a wooden fence.

This City government seeks to serve all of its citizens. I belive CITI TV is an excellent means of communicating information, and I believe most all CITI TV viewers will tell you it is a good source of information and not “an ad agency” for City government. I believe a City government should be concerned about “community” interests, such as the work of the Cultural Arts Council and events such as the Hydrangea Festival.

I believe all government should strive to provide service at the lowest possible cost. That is what this government is doing.

Thank you for this opportunity to communicate with you and for the opportunity to serve as your mayor.

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