McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 12, 2011

Letter to editor: We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck

By Natalie C. Green

McALESTER — Editor:

City of McAlester employees will be furloughed. No raises for city employees. City of McAlester is cutting back on employee benefits. City of McAlester is reducing operating expenses. City of McAlester is going broke. City of McAlester cannot afford it. City of McAlester takes firefighter’s negotiations to a vote of the people. Month in, month out we have read all of these comments about our city government over and over, again and again.

Yet, in the past three weeks I read where the City of McAlester’s economic development director gets a week-long, all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas! Paid with the same tax dollars that were not available for raises for regular city employees. Same public funds to keep city employees from having to lose a day’s pay by being furloughed. Same public monies which couldn’t be used to fix these “cow trails,” as another citizen wrote not long ago. The very same taxpayer money which couldn’t be used to keep our firefighters properly manned, properly equipped and properly paid.

Now, I think the mayor and city council, as our elected public servants, have some serious explaining to do. Explain how city government funds can be used to pay for an all-expenses-paid week-long trip to Las Vegas?  Who approved a trip like this for a public employee? There are lots of questions which need some public explanation and scrutiny. Certainly more than the public board chairman saying “there’s more to Las Vegas than gambling and sex.”

Public funds were used to give a public employee an outrageous $10,000 pay raise and a $6,500 “bonus;” $16,500 in pay hikes to one single public employee plus the cost of a week-long trip to Vegas. A big raise and bonus for what? She reportedly has yet to create or recruit a single job or investment in our city, which is what she was hired and paid to do.

The other eye-raiser is the same public MPower board chairman who made the Las Vegas comment now wants me to believe this economic development is underpaid by comparable cities in Oklahoma. Since when is Norman’s population under 20,000? Since when is comparing this economic development employee, who has been in the job for a single year, to other economic development directors in their cities who have been in their jobs for years. Again, someone who is our elected representative has some serious explaining to do.

Mr. Mayor and City Councilmen, most of us voting taxpayers didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

A vote on the firefighters’ contact has been scheduled for the voters to decide, vote which will cost several thousand dollars. A vote which could affect every property and business owner in McAlester.