The ‘Do-Nothing’ City Council

Welcome to Slantville. Slantville is a very small city in the middle of the state. Nothing much happens here, and hasn’t for the past 50 years, since the they build the interstate. Slantville has a population of about 50,000, mostly older folks who have lived here their entire life. But the last couple of years has seen a few new younger families relocating to the small, unhurried life in a small city. And most of these new residents happened to very civic minded and wanted to see the little city grow and improve.

So a couple of year ago, a few of the younger residents began circulating talk that the city council was a ‘Do-Nothing’ city council. And the fact is – it was true. They had not passed a new ordinance in 5 years (and that was to increase the penalty for littering). But as the talk was going around about the ‘Do-Nothing’ city council, some of the older residents begin to side with the younger ones. “The city council should be working and doing things to earn their pay, even if it is a small salary”, they said.

So with the onset of city council elections, a new city council was sworn in. This new city council in no way resembled the old city council. This city council was much younger and ready to do something. They had to show that this was not a ‘Do-Nothing’ city council.

The city council went to work and decided that Main Street needed a little spruce-up. They passed an ordinance that each business in town must have a uniform trash can beside the front door. Then they went so far as to define a business as any ‘enterprise or individual that sold goods or services to any other enterprise or individual’. So every business got a new trash can (at a cost of $200 each). Then it was realized that even the mayor had to put a trash can at his front door, since his wife baked pies and sold them to the local food market. Freddy, on the poor side of town had to buy one too since he mowed lawns for a living. Even old Mrs. Malone had to buy a trash can – she took care of kids during the day in her home. The net result was that about half of the homes in Slantville now had new trash cans sitting by their front door and in total, the residents spent about $2 million on new trash cans.

Not wanting to be known as a ‘Do-Nothing’ city council, they decided that there should be a new park built to honor Mr. Slant, who had been mayor of Slantville for almost 20 years. It was he for whom the town was named. A parcel of land was decided on and purchased. Then bids went out for the baseball field, tennis court, basketball court, and playground equipment. The total cost of this was $3.5 million. It was a very nice park though!

Then the city council turned their attention to the old City Hall building. This building had been built in 1960 – and it looked it. It could definitely use a face-lift. So after crunching numbers, it was decided that in the long run, it would be better to tear down the old building and build a new City Hall. The cost of the new City Hall was $13 million.

The residents begin to say that this was surely not like the city council they used to have. These folks were actually getting some stuff done. They were making the town look nicer and maybe that would entice some new residents to move in, or bring more businesses in. Things were really looking up.

The next year was even more aggressive. There was $5 million spent for new LED traffic lights, even though the old ones worked just fine and they had enough of the light bulbs for 5 more years. There was landscaping around the new City Hall and in the vacant lot next to the library. And there was the ordinance that all businesses on Main Street had to be open Sunday afternoon for any tourists that may happen through.

It became apparent that this new city council had spent a whole lot of money doing things and the city did not have that much money. The spending of the past had not been a whole lot, and so money was not a problem. Things were different now. So in order to make up for some of the large outlays, the city council instituted a business license fee of $100 per year for each of those businesses that had to buy the new trash cans. Property taxes also had to be raised a “small amount” to offset the cost of a nicer looking town. Also a quarter percent increase in the city sales tax was passed.

In two years, the new city council, the answer to the ‘Do-Nothing’ city council had spent over $250 million. And they had raised the cost of living and doing business in Slantville by $50 million, or about $1000 per resident. A few of the businesses had closed or moved to Smithson (10 miles away) saying it was getting too expensive to operate in Slantville. And quite a few families moved away to get somewhere with lower property taxes. Many of the residents begin to question if this was a good thing, or not. Things had been so nice in Slantville, for so long. They could go about running their business, baking pies, mowing lawns and not have to worry about what they would be required to purchase next year. There begin to be talk of wanting a ‘Leave Us Alone’ city council.

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