When I Demand Transparency and Truth

When I Demand Transparency and Truth
From My Government, It Should Not Be Labeled “Hate”
By Susan M. Halpern
Former Addison Councilmember (1992-1999)

I was shocked a few months ago when I first became aware that those of us who have been vocal in challenging Addison’s government had been labeled as “haters.” What was truly appalling was that the group so casually using this abhorrent tag included members of Addison’s council.  The fact that elected officials would reference their constituents using such distasteful names is reprehensible.  The fact that this tactic is being employed to avoid addressing the substance of our grievances is unacceptable and is not, to say the very least, a sign of a healthy government.

Of course the hope is that by labeling us with this derogatory term, Meier and his cadre can deflect attention from the substance of what we’re saying. What they really want is to avoid addressing the important issues we continue to raise.  Their latest effort is in the form of a letter being circulated that adopts this theme and, in an incredible twist of logic, begs for the “hate” to stop.

It is the responsibility of every citizen to fight for democratic principles, and I, for one, will continue to do so. Demanding accountability and transparency is not “hateful.”

Let’s be clear: I’ve raised significant issues for a long time now. Having served on the council for seven years, I have been disturbed by what I’ve seen.  I’ve warned about the tax and spend habits of Meier and his cadre.  Our taxes are up 28.8% in five years and this council has overspent the budget for two years running by almost $2 million.  This is not a sustainable model.

I’ve written about how deceptive it was for the Meier-led council to tout last year’s one-cent tax rate decrease as an accomplishment, when the reality was that it was funded out of Addison’s reserves. Meier bragged about it in his no-opponent campaign materials, as I predicted he would.  But he never acknowledged how it was actually funded, leaving the false impression that it was funded from current revenues.

I warned about the failure of Meir and his cadre to responsibly manage the tax rate and, sure enough, this year Addison’s tax rate is above the rollback rate for the first time in Addison’s history. And, in the face of all this irresponsible budgeting, Meier and his cadre voted to pay $6.5 million of our taxpayer money to the Sam’s redevelopment project, without any clue where the money was going to come from.  You don’t run your budget that way, and these people should not be running Addison’s budget that way.

These are real and significant issues, but Meier and his cadre continue to ignore them. I have yet to hear answers or explanations, or a plan for how this type of unsustainable budgeting is going to be brought under control.  Now, instead of providing answers and encouraging a dialog on these issues, Meier, his cadre and supporters are calling people like me terrible names,  as if this was all a junior high dispute.  It’s astonishing.

But here’s what really hard to understand. How do these folks who have orchestrated all this bad publicity for Addison and the inexplicable campaign to disparage our former management and staff, somehow claim to hold a moral high ground?  It is truly baffling.  Meier and his cadre are the folks who sponsored Kanter’s one-sided, inflammatory, innuendo-filled presentation, encouraging him to attack former management.  They never told the public that his presentation was nothing more than a recycled version of his almost-two-year-old July 11, 2014 letter, and instead pretended to be surprised by what they were hearing.  And, they continue to actively conceal documents reflecting the views of the very management and staff they continue to publicly disparage.  These folks who are concealing the truth somehow have the right to judge me?

And I’m also curious as to what label should be applied to the despicable smear campaign Meier and his cadre are leading against Former City Manager Ron Whitehead, who spent 32 years making Addison a very special place. Perhaps the author of this latest “hater” missive can enlighten us as to how this all works?

My writings have fundamentally demanded accountability and transparency from this council. It is telling indeed that instead of dealing with the serious issues I have raised, Meier, his cadre and their supporters have reduced the dialog to name-calling.  Talk about the “tone at the top!”

Addison’s residents deserve far more from their elected representatives.