Greg Martin: Why I Will Not Be Voting For Commissioner Discretionary Spending - And Response (2)

Monday, July 13, 2020
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Martin
Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Martin

Most people that know me well know that I will not vote to reinstate the $900,000 commissioner’s discretionary spending of taxpayer money. My reasons are: 

1. There could not be a worse economic time for the government to spend additional money. It’s time to tighten the belt of government spending and not expand it. All American families are having this conversation around their kitchen tables. Why would elected leaders do anything different?

2. Tax spending should be planned for and budgeted. If discretionary spending is right, then legislative bodies would enact this practice at the city, state, and federal levels. If it were the best way to spend taxpayer money, then we would see it practiced all over Tennessee. Today, there is only one county that has discretionary money - Shelby County.

3. To me, it makes more sense to save for our next big economic development project. What if some large company needs us to create additional infrastructure to lure them to our community?  Nine hundred thousand dollars would go a long way in Hamilton County for economic development and job creation. 

4. Discretionary spending is simply a way to curry favor with voters for the next election. It is a “re-elect me fund” to distribute favors in individual districts not based on the greatest needs, but the loudest and closest voices to the commissioner. We must never forget that all tax dollars belong to the people and not politicians. Elected officials are simply stewards of taxpayers’ money. In my opinion, discretionary spending is not the best way to be the best steward.

5. The government will never be able to meet all the needs of our communities no matter how hard we try or how much we tax our citizens. The question is simple: Is it appropriate for all of needs to be met by the government? I suggest that there are other groups who can help meet community needs. For example, parents, families, private groups, civic clubs, churches, the United Way, and other philanthropic people could help. The government is not always the best answer for every situation.

In the past, when commissioners had discretionary money, there was seldom, if ever, a spending request that was rejected by the body. The truth is, this short sighted way of spending taxpayer money makes the commission – and, in fact, the individual commissioner - the judge, jury, and executor of the tax dollars. There are no checks and balances with discretionary spending. By contrast, the regular budget is vetted over time with community input, presented by the mayor with the assistance of the Finance Department, and then voted on by the entire commission.

For all of these reasons, I am going to do what I consider to be the right thing, the common sense thing, and vote no for Commissioner Discretionary Spending.

Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Martin

* * * 

Wow, what a thoughtful and timely statement from Greg Martin regarding the discretionary spending proposal some county commissioners want to reinstate.  The $100K per commissioner fund to spend on pet proposals is a perfect example of government spending without accountability. 

I simply cannot write anything better than what Mr. Martin did in his explanation why he is not voting to reinstate the discretionary fund.  It used to infuriate me when we would hear commissioners say “I funded” or “I paid” for this project or that project.  

Thank you, Mr. Martin, for a logical explanation on this important topic.

Bob Linehart

* * *

I want to add my support to Commissioner Martin's opposition to commissioners doling out discretionary funds, a practice that had been correctly terminated years ago. It is very difficult to believe that commissioners supporting discretionary funds so readily would discount the appearance of impropriety. I hope those that claim a charitable motivation for this practice also would practice charity at home.
Please put a stake in this horrible idea's heart, a nail in its coffin and bury it once and for all.

Fred Decosimo

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