City’s leadership is ‘irresponsible’

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, October 13, 2009

To the Board of Aldermen,

I am writing to you today to express my deep unhappiness with the recent decision of the mayor and board of aldermen to terminate John “Rusty” Lewis as the city planner.

Mr. Lewis is one of the few individuals in city government I regard as having been highly competent in discharging the responsibilities of his job. This board has repeatedly demonstrated its disregard for the city’s planning and preservation ordinances, but eliminating the entire planning department takes your collective irresponsibility to new and breathtaking levels.

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It is transparently obvious that Mr. Lewis’ dismissal (and Brett Brinegar’s initial dismissal) has little to do with city budget concerns. This is purely political, and seemingly conceived in the unfortunate calculus of some kind of racial quid pro quo that has now brought our city government to its knees.

If the board is truly serious about cutting city expenses, may I suggest that you begin by reducing your own part-time salaries to $12,000 per year — roughly what aldermen in Ocean Springs and Brookhaven are earning.

I would then suggest eliminating the community development position, saving the city $38,000 per year. I see very little in the way of tangible results that would justify funding this position, but eliminating the position of the city planner.

Cutting community development and your salaries would represent a collective savings of nearly $100,000 per year. Had you chosen this route, this could have covered Mr. Lewis’ and Ms. Brinegar’s salaries with money to spare, and you would have looked a lot less foolish.

I realize this would have demanded that you put the needs of the city ahead of your petty animosities and personal agendas, but this is what responsible leaders do in times of crisis — and Natchez is indeed in a state of crisis.

I moved to Natchez in 2005. From my previous residence in California, I know enough about dysfunctional government to recognize it when I see it.

In the four years I have lived here, I have watched with growing dismay as this board has fumbled opportunity after opportunity, and lurched from one self-generated crisis to the next.

And now certain members of this board have used our current budget crisis to go after two highly competent department heads for reasons that really have very little to do with the current fiscal crisis.

Your “leadership” is killing Natchez.

Tom Scarborough

Natchez resident