The following article appeared in a local paper in a small town in middle Tenn.:
To the Editor:
We the people...These words have always held a special meaning to me, as they do for most Americans. These words mean we have a voice in our government whether it is on a national or local level.
A few years ago when the new jail and justice center was in the planning stages, a large group of Smith County residents made their opinion known in the form of a petition with many signatures.
This petition stated we were aware that our county needed a new jail but not a justice center with new court rooms and office space, since the existing court house had already been renovated and treated for mold at the taxpayers expense. The petition asked that a jail be built for our needs and not bring more criminals from state institutions into our county. This petition was given to a county commissioner who presented it to the committee. The commissioners voted to build only the jail saving millions of dollars for the taxpayers. We felt our voices had been heard.
Since then, a new vote was taken. I was told it is not being called a justice center but the new jail will have court rooms, office space and house state inmates. I was also told this was in the paper...after the vote. An offer had previously been made for donation of land in the county area to build the jail but was rejected due to the expense of transporting prisoners from jail to the court house. Land was purchased on a cemetery site and the taxpayers were responsible for more money to relocate the graves.
Did any other taxpayer receive a call, a letter, see a notice asking for your opinion from your county commissioner? Are the Smith County patrol cards being driven after hours for personal use? Did any other taxpayer get to voice their opinion on funds spent on the superintendent of schools office building? Did the chairs in that building really cost $500.00 each? Who was held accountable for expenses when our teachers are forced to buy a lot of their own supplies and parents are asked to bring copy paper?
Our county has one of the highest wheel taxes in the state of Tennessee but we the people voted for that. We were heard.
This is a time of economic decline, unemployment and loss of homes, which will be felt in our county revenue. While I am aware that housing state inmates does generate revenue, is this what our county wants? When this "not a justice center" but a new "jail with court rooms, office space and state inmate housing" is finished, who will pay the bill and maintain the existing court house? We the people!
E. has followed up on her phone calls with an excellent letter to her local paper. A true Patriot, E. is asking for some answers, alerting fellow citizens about important issues in the community, and presenting concerns in a very professional manner. The above letter would make an excellent model for anyone wanting to write a letter to their local paper.
Way to go E., I am guessing you have opened the eyes of your fellow citizens and we have not heard the last of this...