“We want to be the least like Washington D.C. possible.” That was part of the message County Commissioner Heidi Shafer gave to members of the Midtown Republican Club at Tuesday’s meeting.
Ms. Shafer, who deeply believes that the people should be in charge of their own fate, explained the role of the County Commission. “We are like Congress,” she said, “and the (county) mayor is like the president. We make the rules.”
However, she said, lately it’s been “combative government, full contact sport government.”
She explained. “The SCC itself has a unique component this year. We’re not voting along party or race lines, but what’s best for the county. We have passed a lot of Republican/conservative things,” she said. “They (members) are open to many economic and philosophical ideas here.”
It’s the mayor that has been divisive. For example, she says, “We met and got a budget together. Mayor Luttrell worked behind us and peeled off people from the tax decrease plan. He wrote his own and quit giving it to us and even removed our computers. The county attorney then said we didn’t have the right to audit anything.”
In response, “we’ve had to step up with our own attorney to find out the truth about the budget.” That prompted this from Luttrell, “The mayor told us that if we passed an ordinance or law that he didn’t agree with, we could be personally sued.
“It’s undemocratic and surprised me. For the first four years the mayor had a good relationship with us, but then there came a marked change. The county attorney was making rulings such as the one that we couldn’t amend the budget. Even the US attorney general only offers an opinion and it’s not binding.”
Shafer explains that they found a way to hire their own attorney, Julian Bolton. “He’s very liberal, but he’s given us good advice.”
In addition, the Commission was able to put on the November ballot a vote that would say the county mayor could not dismiss their attorney without Commission assent.
“We went to the election commission today and it was approved. But he (the mayor) fought us there, too.”
Asked what would happen if the vote did not turn out as the Commission wants, Ms. Shafer said she would be OK with that.
“We must listen to the people.”
Tomorrow: Shafer discusses property taxes, TIFFs and the EDGE program.