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For over a year now, I have wondered how The City of New Albany managed to come up with $60,000 plus to pay off the fireworks and other unpaid expenses for the 2007 Freedom Festival. If you will remember, that was the one where the Charlie Daniels Band performed (at a huge price), tickets were sold (and only about 2,000 people showed up) and the rest of the revenue producing activities, such as concessions had been exclusively contracted out. As a result, the expenses for everything, including the band, fireworks, etc., exceeded the revenues and contributions, and the shortfall was left for the city to settle.
For the life of me, I have never been able figure how our Board of Aldermen came up with such a large sum of money that was so easily available. The amount needed to pay off the shortfall for an event that was really a thinly-veiled privatization of a yearly tourism event which, in terms of costs, could have bankrupted many communities.
Not so with New Albany, because now with new information about the “ear-marked” bank account for the mini-coliseum at hand, I have added another theory about the amazing appearance of enough money to pay off the 2007 Freedom Festival shortfall. I have suspicions that this account, the one set up and earmarked for the mini-coliseum, could have very easily become a “slush-fund” from which transfers of money could have been made to other accounts (in the Freedom Festival case, we were told that the money to “bail out” it out came from the Magnolia Civic Center, which I feel safe in saying, has never had that much excess money in it’s history) to then be transferred to the City’s general operating account to be spent on whatever.
Hopefully, my theory is wrong because all that transferring out of an officially earmarked account is questionable in any circumstance in terms of the proper and legal use of designated, dedicated funds without public discussion or vote of the governing body in open meeting. To make such a transfer to another tourism account for an ultimate transfer to the general operating fund to be used by design without public disclosure suggests intent or premeditation to commit what could be considered improper use of the public’s money. Sometimes that is called fraud.
Were my theory to be true, and even if it’s not, wouldn’t it be interesting for the taxpayers to know how much of their tax money has been deposited to that account for the now mythical mini-coliseum and how many withdrawals have been made, for how much and where that money has ended up? That’s the problem with a government that habitually operates in the dark, the public remains in the unaware and uninformed about what is going on, particularly when it comes to what their government is doing with their money. Anyway, this is just something else that needs to be closely examined and another good reason why elections are so necessary and why your vote is so vital to the future of this community. Candidates for all offices should be aware of the little “land mines” that might be waiting for them, should the citizens of New Albany grant them the office they seek. While these “land mines” might be covered up for now, the day of resolution for many of them is not far in the distance.
Speaking of a day of reckoning, what’s with our governor and his obvious choice of his political party over the people of Mississippi? I’m hoping that before this column appears, our governor will remember the rest of the people of this state and accept Mississippi’s share of the federal government’s Stimulus Package. There’s little argument, even among the members of the President’s political party that there is pork and waste in this financial bailout package, but to develop such a massive financial program completely without such pork and waste is not only impossible, but naive for anyone, including our Governor, to expect.
The financial outpouring from the federal government to rescue our state from the effects of the hurricane Katrina, carrying with it opportunities for many to profit from the humanitarian financial packages. It has been suggested and rumored that our same governor, along with others, have tapped into some of those funds for personal gain. Were that to be the case, then objections to the Stimulus Package and it’s obvious flaws is purely political and hypocritical.
There’s no suggestion to take the money now and figure out how to recover and pay it back later, but there is a suggestion that all of us, the governor and our elected officials alike, take the money and then do out dead-level best to do those things with that money that represent the right things to do.
The flexibility allowed in this Stimulus Package opens opportunity for the dishonest and equal opportunity for those who would do what is right for this country and it’s people. For once, just for once, it would be reassuring to watch our leaders actually do what it is right. Governor Barbour, it can start with you.