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Posted: July 19, 2009 12:00 a.m.

A disappointing response

Recently, The News reported on the proposed budget for the City of Covington. One of this newspaper's concerns is a proposed position for a community/economic development director employed by city. Newton County was successful for years in attracting industries and businesses by utilizing a unified approach by the city, county, Industrial Development Authority and Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

When The News first heard about this position, we were not sold on its need, so we had our reporter talk to city officials, including the mayor, other community leaders and chamber of commerce officials.

After several weeks of trying to find the motivation for this possible hire and large expenditure, none of the reasons given to our reporter in support of the position satisfied our idea of a justified expense. Neither could anyone interviewed list the job duties of the position as a job description has yet to be devised. That being said, The News heard from a large number of citizens and officials off the record who believe this position is yet another attempt at kingdom building by the mayor.

Considering the current state of the economy, The News fully recognizes the need to attract business to our city and county to ensure that we are protected from future economic downturns; thus, we are trying to keep an open mind on this issue.

To that end, this newspaper invited Mayor Carter to walk across the street and spend some time with our editorial board to discuss further this important issue.

In a conversation with our editor after this invitation, the mayor in a defensive manner and caustic tone turned down our invitation.

Mayor Carter chastised our editor and told her that she had already spent enough time talking with our reporter concerning this issue and that if the publisher and general manager of the paper wished to learn more, they could start attending the council meetings.

Then Mayor Carter turned into the inquisitor and asked our editor this question, "If we hired a sanitation worker, would you spend so much time and be so concerned?"
The News' answer to that question, Madam Mayor, is this:
Yes, we would if the city was going to pay the sanitation worker $100,000 a year in salary and benefits as proposed for the new position. This figure was confirmed by a city personnel office employee.

Her second question was this:
"If you were hiring a reporter, would I be able to come down there and ask questions of The News' prospective employee for two hours?"

Our answer to that question is this:
With all due respect, you are asking the wrong question.
Some of the questions that need to be asked are the following: one, do we need this position; two, what would this person do; and three, is the hiring fiscally responsible? These are questions that we always ask ourselves prior to hiring an additional staff member.

This position would cost the taxpayers of our city more than $100,000 - roughly 20 percent of the city's expected $500,000 FY2009-10 surplus according to the Mayor's Corner on www.cityofcovington.org. In the meantime, our offer still stands; this newspaper has always offered the mayor an open forum to discuss publicly her thoughts and ideas on how the city can be improved.


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