Correct to blame president
Gene Linzey in his Nov. 4 column, remarked that "it is worse than idiotic to blame the president for something over which he has no control! It would be more appropriate to blame Congress, governors and city mayors."
Actually, it is entirely correct to blame the president, though there are some governors -- Kristy Noem of South Dakota comes to mind -- also responsible for the spread of covid-19. The devolution of the problem to the states was by design. The plan was to push the responsibility for addressing covid-19 to the states, and deny any responsibility at the federal level, thereby pushing any blame to the state level.
The president's lack of response, and poor handling of the situation once he did respond, is directly to blame for thousands of infections and deaths in the United States. Once the virus became known in late January, and certainly by February, when the spread was picking up, he did nothing. Rather than listen to the people who have the training and experience to know the risks and consequences of infection, and deal with the American people forthrightly, he covered it up. He could have invoked the Defense Production Act immediately, eliminating or greatly reducing the shortages of protective equipment, thereby reducing the risk to health care workers and first responders. He complained that the Obama administration had left him with no resources; the truth is that President Obama had observers in China, and a contingency plan for this exact situation. Donald Trump disbanded that group and scuttled the plan.
When the president did address covid-19, he continued to disregard the advice of Drs. Fauci, Redfield and Birx, who have spent years working on infectious disease, instead promoting unproven and possibly dangerous treatments. Simple things that would have gone a long way to curtailing the spread in the absence of a vaccine or treatment were downplayed: Masks, distancing, handwashing. He refused to wear a mask, and ridiculed those who did. He held events that infected many. What the president does, matters. If he had worn a mask, and encouraged others to do so, his supporters would have followed, thereby reducing everyone's exposure. The death toll would likely have been tragically high in any event, but much less than the almost 240,000 who have died to date. So, yes, the president bears a large part of the blame for the pandemic.
Against the utility rate study
After learning our City Board would be discussing and voting on a proposal to spend $120,000 to complete a utility rate study, I submitted the feedback below via email. According to last Wednesday's Herald-Leader, Board members Mindy Hunt, Lesa Rissler, and Marla Sappington voted against this proposal, while Brad Burns, Reid Carroll, Bob Coleman, and Carol Smiley supported it. You can express your feedback regarding this and any other concerns with one email which will be received by all board members: [email protected]
Here is the email I submitted prior to the vote and I want to thank directors Hunt, Rissler, and Sappington for voting "no" on this proposal:
Dear City of Siloam Springs Board:
I understand you will be voting tonight on spending $120,000 for a utility rate study. The expectation, of course, is that the study will indicate a need for a rate increase. I encourage you to vote NO on this proposal for the following reasons.
$120k is a lot of money. Surely, the board could find better use for these funds.
It is my understanding that a similar study was completed a few years ago. Could that study be used as a template for a current study? It seems that someone on the current paid staff should be able to take on this project.
The pandemic has brought hardship for many and has impacted lower and middle incomes the greatest. A raise in utility rates impacts everyone but will hit those already struggling the hardest. For this reason alone, any consideration of raising rates should be tabled indefinitely. Even considering an increase in these challenging times suggests to me the board is "out of touch" at best and "heartless" at worst. I apologize for the powerful words used here, but they convey my concerns.
If funds are needed, perhaps the board should be scrutinizing the expense side of the budget (looking for expenses to cut) rather than the income side (looking to raise revenue).
I have recently learned that Siloam Springs rates for residential, commercial, and industrial are already higher than those in neighboring communities. Why make our community less desirable for new residents and businesses? Why not consider matching the rates of other communities?
Clearly, I will come down on the side of choosing the fiscally conservative option almost every single time. This is our money (and your money) you are spending. You have a fiduciary responsibility to be wise, thoughtful, and intentional. Is it necessary? Is it beneficial? Can it be avoided?
Thank you for hearing me out.