Responsible governing gets messy but works in Warren
Quite often in this space, The Vindicator finds it necessary to take to task government leaders for irresponsible and unresponsive conduct toward their constituents. Examples of neglect, lethargy, political shenanigans, abuse of power, and even nefarious illegal antics abound on local, state and federal platforms.
That’s why it’s refreshing today to single out Warren city officials — most notably Mayor Doug Franklin and city council members — for their quintessentially responsible and responsive leadership that is paving the way for millions of dollars in visible and necessary city improvements.
Warren City Council earlier this fall approved bond issues totaling $9.5 million to fund street resurfacing, upgrading of city-owned buildings and purchase of a structurally sound downtown office building to replace one that has fallen into disgustingly decrepit disrepair.
Council’s near-unanimous vote on the bonds concluded a two-year-long saga filled with drama and rapidly changing plot lines. Fortunately for the quality of life for city residents and for effective delivery of municipal services, the production ended happily for city leaders and the many city residents who played critical roles in its winding evolution.
HISTORY OF THE ISSUE
Two years ago, then Warren Mayor Michael O’Brien outlined plans for a bond issue as a responsible funding mechanism to finance city improvements.
The O’Brien administration chose to take the route of a bond issue rather than a tax levy because interest rates on municipal bonds were at a six-decade low and the city’s credit rating was at an all-time high. That perfect mix provided the best bang for the buck for city taxpayers.
While other city leaders had little disagreement over the sensibility of a bond issue, many criticized its size, scope and purposes.
Originally, leading players in the city had planned a bond of $24.5 million to finance road improvements, department upgrades and construction of a $10 million city administration building.
But a strong and vocal chorus of Warren residents loudly lambasted such a grandiose plan. After a few more twists in the plot line, a new proposal — half the size of the original that scrapped what some had described as a “Taj Mahal” administration building for Warren — took center stage.
It was that proposal that City Council overwhelmingly passed this fall. In so doing, members solidly acknowledged the importance and seriousness of taxpayer input into decisions that will impact the city for decades to come.
We’re counting on city leaders to continue those responsible ways by ensuring the major projects included in the bond issue are implemented as quickly and as professionally as possible. They’re off to a good start with plans on the drawing board to repave in 2014 more than 60 residential streets, some of which have not seen major improvements in decades.
We’ll also count on city residents to continue their important supporting roles as monitors and critics of city government operations.
Above all else, the intense drama and conflict over the past two years on the bond issue underscore the importance of citizen input and illustrate that success in government is not always neat and speedy. Sometimes, in fact, government works best when it lets itself get just a little bit messy.