For most, just showing up for work simply doesn’t cut it. But that’s what happened a week ago when Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton decided not to vote on the proposed Cumberland Center Development District during the Lebanon City Council’s most recent regular meeting.
And that’s not the first time it’s happened.
On a couple of occasions during the council’s vote on the city’s budget, Burton exercised this option to delay its passage.
“Once again, we’ve got a councilman who puts his vote higher and above the others and his ward,” said Mayor Philip Craighad after last Tuesday’s meeting. “His ward stands to benefit more than anybody, and he can’t make a decision on the facts that are presented. He’s costing people jobs.”
The question is, why?
Burton said he didn’t have the information he needed to cast a vote. He said he had asked for information about what the overhead costs would be to run the proposed multipurpose event center, but never received them.
“You’re talking about $40 million [to build the event center] and you don’t have any financial information on what it would cost to run it,” said Burton. “You’ve got to have all this information so you can make a definitive decision.”
He said he also felt the city should bring the proposal to the citizens in the form of a referendum.
Additionally, he said he was concerned about the city investing money into property that could revert back to the developer if the event center ended up not being built.
“Taxpayer dollars are sacred money, and you can’t take taxpayer dollars in a sinking fund or any other type of fund to invest in real estate that the city doesn’t own,” said Burton. “You can’t get a bond on private property through the city.”
Clearly it’s an important decision, but all the information available at this time regarding costs is also on the table. The plan also clearly outlines that the city would receive the 20 acres for an event center once the council approves the funding for it. And the funding comes from tax money derived from the district itself set aside to build the center.
Beyond that, any costs regarding maintenance, employees, etc. would be determined when the center is built, but that same tax money would continue to fund its operations.
Simply put, a councilor should have three options. He or she should vote yes, no or abstain if there is a conflict of interest.
But to not vote at all, well that’s just not getting the job done.