It’s time to expect more

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We are once again counting down to another election. We’re tired, we’re weary and we often wonder, “Can’t the government just go on without us for a little while?”

No, it can’t.

Effective elections need two things – voters and candidates.

For the first time, more than 1,000 residents in the city of Liberty Hill voiced their preference when they voted for Mayor in November 2020. Every Council place that shows up on the ballot going forward should have that much interest. There is too much power in a council position now, and too much at stake at this juncture in Liberty Hill, to not take the election seriously.

A look back at the 2019 election demonstrates how important participation has become.

Three Liberty Hill City Council seats are on the May 1 ballot. The Council has five voting members, so essentially three members can hold a majority on the Council and make every decision for everyone in our town.

That’s what happened in 2019 when the three individuals – Steve McIntosh, Gram Lankford and Liz Rundzieher – with expiring terms this May, were elected and chose to throw their absolute unquestioning support behind then-Mayor Rick Hall.

They were joined in 2019, when Council members Kathy Canady and Tony DeYoung were appointed. They both continue to serve having never received a single vote for the office. McIntosh, Lankford and Rundzieher received a combined total of 223 votes that May. That Council – with its 223 votes in all – approved the budget in September 2019 and September 2020.

That Council added more than $700,000 to the General Fund budget its first year, and another $1.4 million the second.

Beyond a budget increase, the 2019-2020 fiscal year the City spent $440,000 more than budgeted in the General Fund. That increase came on the heels of a year when – under Hall’s leadership – the City spent $1.7 million above the $3.5 million General Fund budget in 2018-2019.

What it spends this year remains to be seen.

Looking back three years, to the fiscal year that ended in September 2018, the City spent $4.45 million from the General Fund, only $70,000 over the budget.

The impact went well beyond ever-increasing expenditures, though, as management has also raised questions in the last two years.

The City – under the leadership of this Council – dealt with one messy termination after another, was sued by one former employee, and could still be sued over issues with its wastewater plant.

The capital improvements plan has been haphazard at best, and until the summer of 2020, it appears Council members didn’t know how much was being spent and on what projects in some cases.

If voters in Liberty Hill sift through all that and say “these are the representatives we want,” then there’s no need for change. But it is important that the six people who sit at that dais two Mondays every month have been chosen, and hopefully vetted, by the voters. They should receive the endorsement of a majority of the voting age population in Liberty Hill, not the 223 who handed the keys to the City to the current five voting members.

Council members need to monitor the budget and monitor projects. They should know the platting process and understand how ordinances work. They should have a firm grasp of motions and amendments and know when action needs to be taken and when it doesn’t.

Remember, for better or worse, this Council decided its members should get paid. Whoever is elected in May will draw a paycheck. It’s not a living, but it’s taxpayer money and comes with our right to expect more.

In election season, The Independent says the more the merrier.

More candidates inspire more voters. More of both inspire better ideas, stronger leadership and greater transparency and accountability.

Some current Council members regularly lament the lack of participation or use that lack of public involvement as a stamp of approval for their work.

If what we’ve seen is what voters in our city want more of, then they can make that decision at the polls, but it has never been more important to have a choice and send a message with that choice, no matter what the result is.

Beginning now, the message should be we expect more.

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