City resident takes issue with Yokeley claims

To the Editor,

As a concerned citizen, I attend most city council meetings in Mount Airy, and have also attended all but one of the budget sessions this year. I feel I have seen the actions and inactions of the commissioners as much as anyone not in an official capacity.

I found the article on Steve Yokeley (“Yokeley chastises fellow board members,” Sun 6-18-17) very interesting. Although I agree that at times the council is disorganized and even dysfunctional, it certainly is not misdirected or lacking foresight. Steve seems to believe his way is the only way and his desires are the only vision for the future of our city. But he was soundly defeated in the last election, and his slate of other RDC “visionaries” was also defeated by the voters in spite of their big push.

What has Steve done since the election to mend fences and work toward the common good with fellow commissioners and the mayor? Not only nothing positive, but a great deal of negativity in his dealings. He has in at least three public meetings refused to participate in the discussion and gone so far as to state he was not willing to say why he opposed the general feeling of the group, once even throwing out “go investigate it yourself” when he was asked to explain his thoughts.

If he has a better way, should he not feel a responsibility to present it to his fellow commissioners so they might reach a better joint action? So Steve appears to sulk through the meetings instead of working toward better solutions. He does not mention this in his diatribe against his fellow commissioners.

A committee of two commissioners was to help present a long range plan for city spending, but instead of working with the other commissioner toward mutual goals, Steve chose to make his own list and refused to budge from it in discussions with the committee composed of him, the second commissioner, the mayor, and city staff. He insists to this day that he has the “vision” and none of the rest could possibly have vision if they oppose his huge spend and tax and borrow plan.

Yes he has his small group of vocal followers (who applauded him at the meeting), but they were clearly the minority in the last election, and remain the minority on the council. Many of us are proud of Mount Airy and look to its future, but without the huge spending beyond our means on “wants” instead of “needs.” Thank goodness the majority of council figured this out during the past budget decisions.

As to the many versions of the budget presented by Barbara Jones, the council was clear in its direction to her which she chose to ignore in two major areas in many of her versions. They directed her to present a budget of $12 million total and they wanted sworn police officers to get major raises, (and they wanted both without a tax rate increase).

In the end they got near that and probably got tired of the fight with the city manager. Steve implies the $12 million is not attainable and is $2 million less than the current year budget. The budgets of the city manager have been overstated for the past six years by more than $2 million each year, and actual expenses and income for each of the past five years have been at or under $12 million, so it is certainly attainable and realistic.

In her final proposed budget, Barbara presented false numbers of $11.999999 million by not including designated funds of over $400,000 in that total, although the $400,000 were always a part of the budget. So the budget she came back with was $12.4 million, not the $12 million she was directed to bring back. Also dropped was the pay increase for the police, always a council priority, which along with some smaller public safety items, she knew would be added back by the council.

As to long range plans, Steve likes to propose possibilities, get them approved for future consideration, and then claim in the future they were already decided. The council is right to treat the planning process with suspicion because it has been turned on them and treated as cast in stone, rather than to be considered as a future possibility.

I hope Steve will see the divisiveness he has created and fostered by his actions and inactions as a part of council. Differences of opinion and discussion of different views usually lead to better results in the whole. I hope he can find a way to be more civil and promote the common good, not just his version of the “vision.” There is much good to come for Mount Airy.

Paul Eich

Mount Airy