EDITORIAL: Business owners have right to weigh in on the war between the Mayor, Boatright

This past week, some have complained that they have been put off by the yard signs placed around the city in support of interim City Manager Greg Boatright. The signs have been placed around town by area business owners who have also been circulating a petition in support of keeping the city manager.

Some business owners who have signed the petition have told us that they support Boatright personally while others just want the stability they believe he has brought to a city government weighted down by constant political bickering and personal vendettas that seem to never end.

The most recent example of perceived political payback came when Mayor Jamie Williamson and Councilmember Vicki Brewer proposed a new job description for any future city manager that required a high-level water license. Because of the open hostility surrounding Boatright’s original hiring in May, the public’s perception was that this new requirement was aimed at knocking the current manager out of contention for a permanent job. The Mayor and Mrs. Brewer rejected the suggestion that the move was simply aimed at getting rid of Boatright, and Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan offered that it was designed to fill a “practical” need. However, with no city manager candidate on the horizon who would meet the qualifications, suddenly the Mayor would be back in charge of running the city. And there you have it — politics pure and simple.

Now, regardless of where you come down on the fuss between the Mayor and Greg Boatwright, one thing seems apparent. The business community and many city residents want a professional city manager — not an elected politician who doubles as one. When these business owners approached some of the city leaders they were openly rebuffed, and the Mayor even ordered police to remove some city voters from the council chamber.

In all of this drama, a troubling old attitude has resurfaced among some of our elected leaders toward local business owners.

One of the reasons given for ignoring 150 signatures on a petition to keep the city manager was that most of the business owners don’t actually live in the city limits, don’t have a vote in council elections, and therefore, their opinions don’t count.

Well, that old dog won’t hunt.

What a ridiculous thing to try to hide behind when a few, short years ago there were no city boundaries at all. Regardless of whether business owners live inside the city proper or across the street from the city limits sign or in one of the many subdivisions that have been  carefully carved away from the city, these are the people who believe in the “us” enough to invest their lives in the economy and the future of the community.

These 150 petitioners are more than the number of votes that any member of the City Council received in the last two elections. Regardless of where they vote, these individuals have voted with their dollars. Many have invested their life savings chasing a dream in our hometown. In Liberty Hill, they saw promise and opportunity, and opened businesses that offer products and services that have enriched the lives of residents, not to mention growing a sales tax base that keeps city government in business.

Thanks to their tenacity and hard work we can buy groceries, buy a home, fill a prescription, go to the dentist, go to a doctor, fit our children with braces, take a pet to the veterinarian, buy a car, buy car parts, get a car repaired, go to the hair salon, fill propane tanks, order flowers, see a chiropractor, go to the dry cleaners, shop for clothing and home furnishings, buy gifts for special occasions, find insurance coverage,  take our families out to eat, fill up our gas tanks, get trusted day care for our children, buy eyeglasses, repair appliances, join a gym, fix a leak or replace a water heater, buy tools, remodel our homes, repair our computers, hire an accountant, ask a lawyer, build a fence, push dirt, and yes, even print yard signs.

The idea that business owners don’t matter somehow, that they are only here to fill the tax coffers and never to be heard from is an idea that could only be promoted by the Flat Earth Society. As we’ve said before, Liberty Hill is at a turning point and moving forward with progressive leadership is the way we find economic success. The road to unity won’t be paved by shade tree politicians who use an elected office as a means to get even with those they don’t like. Both sides can find the middle ground when they come to the table in good faith — the kind of good faith that means the same in public as its does in private.

While neighboring communities enjoy an increased tax base, more local jobs and thriving economies, Liberty Hill is embroiled in a seemingly never-ending drama that is teaching our children that this is typical of small-town life.

Well, we don’t believe it has to be this way.

Whether or not you support Boatright in his efforts to keep his job or not, the one thing that this drama has proven beyond a doubt is that Liberty Hill desperately needs a city manager, and not one with a homespun job description.

The current gridlock at City Hall began when the Mayor said she would not work with Mr. Boatright the evening he was hired. That’s a promise she has kept.

It’s time for those holding grudges to toss them aside, listen to all of their constituents with an unclouded mind, and do something bold for Liberty Hill.