EDITORIAL: Tread carefully and thoughtfully, say the spirits of city councils past — if you break it, you buy it

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Perhaps city leaders should read a little Charles Dickens before the next city council meeting. Indeed, with the growth and expanding tax base one could say it is the best of times and the worst of times. It depends on who you are, where you stand and which window you look into or out of.

It seems like a short time ago the local discussion centered around whether we should organize ourselves into a city. The first crop of leaders were conservative, did not bite off more than they could swallow. They decided where the perimeters of the city should be without having the benefit of seeing the newer school campuses or rooftops everywhere. They did not see fast food restaurants from where they stood in old town Liberty Hill. There was no Ronald Reagan Boulevard, no toll road within a stone’s throw. Leander didn’t have a grocery store and Cedar Park didn’t have a hospital. The nearest movie theater was at Lakeline Mall right inside the Austin city limits.

Some of us have watched the whole movie right up to the present. There have been discussions about whether we should dump the volunteer fire department. Should we create an Emergency Services District? Create a police department? Build a new elementary school? Should the City acquire the soccer park on County Road 200? Take over the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp.? Vote ourselves a tax increase for a new high school and football stadium west of town?

In between these large decisions, babies grew to become state champions and young people became slightly gray. But the one thing that always happened in Liberty Hill was the deliberation. People talked, others disagreed, and even when it got loud and animated, there was discussion.

Through the years, The Independent has had opinions that we shared for 50 cents. We believed there should be soccer in the schools, and not just at recess. We advocated for journalism to be added to the high school curriculum.

After reporting the chaotic and unprofessional antics of a city government run by former mayors and council members, we supported the decision to hire a city administrator. And through the years, we have sounded the horn when we saw conflicts of interest among appointed and elected officials who had something to gain from public service.

From the newsroom on the highway, we could see that if Liberty Hill was to ever be taken seriously as more than a pass-through to somewhere else, professionalism, knowledge and experience was required of our leaders. Indeed, we’ve seen lots of changes and have a long memory.

What’s helped shape Liberty Hill into a place to stay is that change has come after leaders discussed, won, lost, cajoled and went about the methodical process of seeking better government, better schools and a better community in general.

If the spirits of Liberty Hill past could come back and speak, some would no doubt tell us that the best decisions they ever made did not profit them personally. They may have made mistakes, but they did not enrich themselves. They may not have been able to read all the tea leaves, but they did not set out to create financial winners and losers.

They may have come from humble circumstances, but they followed their country common sense toward creating a world without financial and political conflicts of interest. And if only in these matters, they set a good precedent.

Now, the future calls and our local leaders face even greater challenges. With every decision there is both peril and success. The ghosts of Liberty Hill past implore public servants to avoid the pitfalls where some connected individuals might profit from their own decisions.

They also remind us that all public workers deserve livable wages, and studies shouldn’t pit one employee’s needs against another.

They would humbly remind us that while we walk along picking up and examining the fragile pieces of a growing community that we should proceed with great caution, that if we break it, we will also pay for it.

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