Opinion

I just realized I had maintenance mode enabled on my blog for the past couple months.  Whoops!  Well, I haven’t had time to write anyway but I didn’t intend to fall off the face of the earth.  As usual, I’ve been busy with school.  I’m taking a full class load at Oregon State this quarter and I figured I’d be stretched then and stressed out of my head, and I was right!  It’s been crazy.  I’ll be busy this summer again too but I’ll only be taking three classes instead of five, so hopefully I’ll be able to come up for air more often.  I’ll be graduating this time next year and, boy, I can’t wait!  It’s been such a long, challenging journey.  If I knew it was going to be such a sacrifice, I’m not sure I would have gone back to college.

Anyway, there’s been some things going on in Decatur that I haven’t addressed.  There’s still a lot more things I’d like to write about over the summer, and I should be able to get to them.

Residency Requirements

The city council has brought up the issue of residency requirements for city employees.  In fact, I believe they went ahead and either passed or are going to pass requirements for new non-union employees to live in the city.  When contract talks come up, I’m sure it will be discussed with city employees represented by unions, and I bet that will go over well!

First of all, the numbers are quite dismal of city workers living in Decatur.  I believe the number is right around 50 percent.  What does that say about Decatur?  Well, it’s not really a unique situation for a city the size of Decatur, surrounded by several bedroom communities, offering newer homes and schools with better ratings.  However, I think Decatur can be competitive with the right kind of strategy.

Over a year ago, I suggested the city plan new ideas for our older neighborhoods.  It included capitalizing on renewable energy and sustainable housing.  So, I was happy to learn that the city is investing in some new homes near Oakwood that will act as models for what could be for that area.  I think it’s a great idea and hopefully home buyers will show some serious interest, and persuade private home builders to get in on the act.  Across the country, in many cities, there is a return to city living.  Yes, people want nice homes with modern floorplans but they also want to be able walk to entertainment, safe parks, natural areas, schools, restaurants, etc.  In other words, they want to feel like they are a part of a community, can contribute to their community, and be good stewards of the earth, all at the same time.  Urban sprawl is akin to using asbestos in our homes.  We know both are dumb ideas.

So, do I think there should be a residency requirement for city workers?  Yes, and I’ll explain why.  The most important reason to me is that you care most about the city you live in.  A city worker, who lives elsewhere isn’t going to have the same concern or passion for Decatur as I do.  They don’t have they same level of commitment.

Sure, they can care about the city but it’s a bit like dating versus being married.  If you’re dating someone, you’ll care when their dog gets sick.  You’ll probably show genuine compassion and hope the dog pulls through.  But if you’re married to that person and it’s now your dog too, and you’re helping pay the vet bills and cleaning up the puke at 3 am, then you’ve entered a whole other level of commitment and caring.  The two situations are totally different because the point of view is totally different.

It’s like when I lived at home and my parents paid all the bills, cooked my food, and made sure everything was safe and sound.  I reaped the benefits of that situation.  It was great!  I didn’t know how great until I moved out and had to pay my own bills, wash dishes I had dirtied, and walked around the house with a baseball bat at night when I thought I heard someone outside my window.  Getting paid by city tax dollars and living it up somewhere else is a bit like visiting your parents house, eating their food, messing up their kitchen, and then going back home to watch Netflix.

So, yes I believe city workers should live in Decatur, especially anyone in a management role.  I think there should be special exceptions, and those can be ironed out, but I think if you’re going to serve a city, you should be part of that city.  As a public servant you are more than an employee.

The only city workers I would have an absolute requirement to live in Decatur are those in management positions.  I’d rather use financial incentives for other workers than strict requirements.

In a country where politicians make our skin crawl, we can at least demand better of ourselves.  It should be an honor to serve the public, not a chore.  It should be an honor to live in the city you represent, not a punishment.  But yes, the city has work to do to make the city a more attractive place to live.  I understand that but city workers can be part of that solution.

 

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I fully intended for the last post to be my last but that was before so many really weird things happening in Decatur over the last couple of weeks and months.  It seems like every time I’m ready to retire from blogging about Decatur, Decatur goes off a cliff.

I’m not going to write about the details of the firing of the chief of police because they have been covered elsewhere (and we don’t even know the details) but I am going to write about things I’ve noticed from the current city council, the city manager, and mayor.  Things have changed.  The appearance of citizens has changed, the whole tone of the meetings has changed, and most importantly discussion of important votes has been minimal with little time between public notification and council votes.

Of course, I expected a change in personalities since the major players have changed but I didn’t expect citizens appearing before council to to be cut off or treated rudely.  According to former police chief Sweeney, the city manager allegedly directed a police officer to remove a citizen from the council chamber apparently because he or she was opposed to a particular agenda item.

Before the last municipal election, we were told Decatur was on the right path.  Things were looking up and brighter than they had been in decades.  Then after the election, we were painted a totally different picture of the city’s finances.  Now, I knew the finances weren’t as great as many may have been led to believe.  I had looked at the numbers and knew there was nothing for city road repairs.  Nothing.  That’s why I proposed major changes to shrink the size of the city since we have lost 25% of our population.

Of course, a lot of the issues stem from the fact that previous councils had put off increasing taxes for years, so instead of modest increases here and there we were hit with some hefty increases all at once.  The main issue though is that the city has no real vision for tackling Decatur’s shrinking population.  A city built for a 100,000 people cannot be supported by a population of less than 75,000.  It’s impossible.  Major changes need to take place and the answer doesn’t involve taxing people to death.  I guess I’ll have to roll out my plan again because it does address those issues in bold and innovative ways.

Other Stuff

I also thought it was highly unethical to appoint a city worker to the library board to essentially be a city spy.  At least that’s how I see it.  I don’t even know why the city wants the library building in the first place.  They don’t have the money to maintain it and they killed off the possibility of commercial development downtown. They also killed a plan for county offices to move into vacant portions of the library building that I thought made a lot of economic sense for taxpayers.  It’s seems the city’s motives regarding the library are petty, shortsighted, and irrational.

I don’t understand what the heck is going on. It’s weird.  I’ve been writing about the city council since 2008 and I’ve never seen behavior like this.  Even when council members were at each other’s throats during the Change Decatur years, at least I knew the motives behind everyone’s actions. I don’t understand the motives behind our city leaders today.  I really don’t.  It’s crazy!

And I really wanted to retire.

 

 

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I don’t know if I’ll have to time over the next week to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, so I’ll do so now.  I have two hours before I have to attend my son’s Christmas recital at school.  This is a rare down time for me this month.  It’s been crazy.  My daughter’s high school graduation party was last night and in less than a week she’ll be moving to Florida.  Her plan is to eventually enter Miami-Dade’s physician assistant program.  Of course she’s excited to be moving to Florida and her dad and I are of course what parents usually are when their child leaves home.  Wrecks.

I’m hoping my next quarter at Oregon State isn’t nearly as demanding as the last one.  There was hardly time to breathe let alone blog.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, I chose three of the most demanding classes in my program to take and all at the same time with a couple extra classes to boot.  With everything else going on, it was, well, torture!

There are many topics regarding Decatur that I want to get to in 2016.  After watching the last council meeting, there’s a lot of things that need to be said about the direction the community is heading.  Most of it isn’t good.

I do want to take the time to make a statement about Caterpillar.  Most of us are aware of their current struggles in the mining sector of their business.  In spite of that the company did give their employees raises except for those union workers on the lowest pay scale.  The local media may choose to remain silent about it but I’m not.

What Caterpillar did was uncalled for and morally wrong.  It was a slap in the face to those employees who have been hurt the most by their downturn, besides those laid-off permanently.  My husband has seen his pay reduced by almost 25% in the past year after being bumped down to a lower job classification.  He and fellow workers who were also bumped down learned this past week that they were the only ones not getting a raise next year.  What kind of logic justifies such a decision?

Well, on that joyous note, I’ll end this post wishing everyone a more peaceful, prosperous and blessed New Year.  Oh, I just remembered the presidential election.  Okay, 2016 is gonna suck but I wish us all the strength and wisdom to get through it and for heaven’s sake, if you have any functioning brain cells, DON’T VOTE FOR DONALD TRUMP! 🙂

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It’s been almost a couple months we decided to stay in Decatur instead of moving to Georgetown, Kentucky.  It wasn’t an easy decision.  There was a big part of me that wanted to go.  I was ready for new experiences in a new setting and Kentucky looked to be a great place to go exploring.  However we decided to stay for many reasons and I still questioned the decision, considering the employment opportunities in Illinois, until the last few weeks.

As we were deciding whether or not to relocate to Kentucky, our new pastor and his family were getting ready to relocate to Illinois from Kentucky.  So instead of discovering Kentucky this summer, for the past few weeks I’ve been helping introduce my pastor and his wife to Decatur.  They seem to be happy with their decision to move here.  They didn’t have any preconceived notions about Decatur, (I’m glad they never read my blog haha!), though they were concerned with the public school ratings.

I hope none of my pastors, past or present, read my blog but that’s another story! 

The biggest blessing of deciding to stay however has been the friendship that their son and mine have formed.  Both are close in age and have had a difficult time forming friendships.  My son has a Apraxia of Speech, which is a motor speech disorder, and their son has Asperger’s. Together, they seem to understand each other and connect.  His mom was overjoyed to hear her son’s laughter as they played together today.  Unless you’ve been a parent of a child with such issues, you may not understand how wonderful it is to see your child interact with other kids and just be happy.  What many take for granted, friendships for kids with special needs doesn’t come easy.

I have always believed that there is a reason for everything and if you keep plugging away, eventually things will turn out as they should.  It’s always turned out that way in my life.

 

 

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Father’s Day is tomorrow and it’s always an awkward day for me.  My dad and I have always had a distant relationship, and I don’t think that’s all that odd.  Many kids grow up in homes without a father but I did grow up with a dad, and I still feel a little awkward on Father’s Day.

I was much closer to my mom, and on June 19th it will be 10 years since she passed away.  Prior to her passing, I think I might have had a total of 2 1/2 conversations with my dad consisting of more than 25 words.  That might be stretching it.  I think growing up,  I scared him just as much as he scared me.  It wasn’t as if he wasn’t involved in my life and completely absorbed into his work; we just didn’t talk.  After my mom died, those first few visits to my parents house, the house I grew up in, were painful but I began having actual mini-conversations with my dad.  I can tell it wasn’t easy for him either.  He had relegated much of the parenting conversations to my mom, not because he was lazy, but because she was just so good at it.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses.

The house seemed empty without my mom, even when the entire family was there.  Christmas was the worst.  It took a long time to realize that the old family scenes were no longer going to work without the leading lady.  The new script was bad and the acting even worse.

I didn’t know how my dad was going to have a happy life without my mom.  They were both 19 when they married and had been married for 40 years.  She was all he ever wanted.  If there was anything obvious about my dad, it was that he never fell out of love with my mom.

We were all expecting them to both live long lives together, well into their 80s or 90s.  That didn’t happen and the hardest part of dealing with our mom’s death was the fact that we all felt cheated.  After a short battle with breast cancer, she was gone.  It didn’t make any sense.

10 years later, I can look back and see how we’ve all managed.  We made it through.  I’m stronger and more independent than I was before.  Relationships with other family members have become stronger and deeper.  My dad made it through those first years alone and remarried in 2010.  That was definitely something I didn’t see coming.  I met my step-mother the day before I learned she was to become my step-mother! I had known her from church but not very well.  I came into the house one day and she was sitting in my mom’s chair in the living room, and we chatted.  My dad asked what I thought of her afterwards, and I said I thought she was nice.  The next day they were planning a wedding!  I didn’t even know they were dating 36 hours earlier.

As unexpected as it was, I was happy for my dad.  He found someone to share his life with and I approved of his choice.  A couple of the women he had sort of dated before her, I wasn’t so impressed with.  One lady I really didn’t care for at all.  My dad built her a patio, a shed, and basically remodeled her house, and that’s all she wanted from him.  She wasn’t digging for gold but rather a free handyman.  I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with her!

My relationship with my dad will always be a little distant.  We’re just really awkward together.  I know a lot of women who were daddy’s girls but I sure wasn’t.  My husband and daughter have the same relationship as my dad and I.  I think it’s just tough for some men to deal with daughters.  They don’t know what to say or do and what they do say and do usually causes fireworks.  A lot of that comes from dads being overly protective of their daughters. My brother’s curfew was midnight and mine was 9 pm.  That pretty much says it all.

None of us are perfect parents but I tip my hat to the dads who stuck it out and stayed.  I sometimes think dads feel like an extra on the set when it comes to parenting but they’re not.  As important as my mom was in my life, my dad was equally so, even if we had much fewer lines together in the play.

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