Saturday, February 9, 2013

Time to pay attention

OK, I'm going to get political for a moment. It doesn't happen often because I don't like bitching and complaining about things I have no control over. I might as well gripe about the weather. If there is something I can do, I'll simply do it. Shop locally, eat as little processed food as I can, vote against someone that doesn't do a good job and for someone that does. I don't care what Chick-fil-a spends their money on but I don't eat there so it's not my money they're spending. Just some examples.

Sometimes there are injustices that need to be addressed, less the people doing wrong continue to do so. Sometimes there is something or someone that needs to be called out.

There's so much to say, I guess I'll start with some background. My town is slowly dieing. It's in a great location right on the Mississippi river with a lot of great old buildings in our downtown and uptown areas and a lot of newer development in other areas of town. Two hospitals, several parks, a riverboat casino, etc. Far too many of these great buildings are vacant. There's no hotel near our riverboat so most of the money generated there are from locals. When ran a promotion to get people to come and stay there the incentives were for a winery and water park in a nearby town. Not our own. I fear before long if things keep going the way they are Alton will end up no different than East St. Louis. Anyone with the means to leave will. I know several people and know of others that try to do what they can to make this town a good place to live. They are investing time and money into creating jobs and entertainment and restoring buildings. On the one hand that makes me feel hopeful and it makes me feel like staying around and doing what I can to invest in Alton's future as well. On the other hand, they haven't always had it easy.

My wake up call came when the mayor banned burlesque in town. It wasn't simply that he did it but it was the way he went about it. Acting like a child. He didn't ask questions or talk with anyone about what was going on before harassing businesses, or even after when the shows promoters tried several times to open a dialogue. Come to find out it was a move to shut down the place where the shows were previously held and once the ball got rolling burlesque was caught in the middle. I'm not sure what issue some city people have with the other establishment but I wish they didn't want to resolve it by shutting them down. Those guys put a lot of work into an old building. It looks great and is serving a purpose. Would they really rather it sit vacant? Sometimes I think they may.

After all of that I was more aware of the attitudes in city hall. This video is a great example of the childish way our mayor behaves and the backward way he thinks.
[Click here for video]
If you're not from the area, a memorial to the flood is one of the stupidest ways to spend money. I'm pretty sure no one died, it was just an uncomfortable time for people where muddy water filled buildings and we all had to drink clean water from cans. Besides, across the street from where the memorial would go is the high water mark. A huge red line noting the event. If they want to put money into the scenic byway fix up some buildings. Give people places to stop and eat or shop while they drive through.

I know this is a long post, and I hope you're still with me. I'm now getting to the real meat. Elections are coming up in April.

I've had the opportunity to speak with a man on a couple occasions that is running for mayor. I worked with his campaign manager to create some photographs for the campaign at one point as well. So allow me to introduce you to Brant Walker:

This is his website, my photos are all over it as well.

Brant owns a job placement business in town. He has also fixed up several houses and rents them out. Already proactively doing what he can to try and make things a little better. I'm not saying I know he'll be the best mayor ever. I can't see the future. What I do know is that when talking with him he seems to genuinely care about making the city better. I don't feel that he wants this job for power or much of his own benefit outside of being tired of sitting back and watching things go downhill. Also, he doesn't have a lot of friends down there at city hall so on the one hand that's good because he's not in with the team of people doing the same old thing for their own benefit. On the other hand it makes things a bit more difficult. To be totally honest, when we first talked I felt he may have been playing the everyone's against me card a little heavy. But then in January I realized it may not be an over-exaggeration at all. This story is long as well so I'll try to compact it as much as I can. 
Someone filed an objection to Brant's running for mayor. Turns out this objection comes from someone that regularly has coffee with our current mayor and during one of these mornings the mayor mentioned something that gave him the impression Brant doesn't pay his taxes so he had a lawyer look into it. All they were able to find was an incorrect tax exemption on a couple properties (when brought to Brant's attention he removed them and paid anything due). This particular tax exemption has been stated by the supreme court as not a reason someone cannot run for mayor. The only other thing they found was a water bill on one of his rental properties that was overdue. A bill that was not in his name and if he were to try and get the information from the water company, even as the property owner he can't due to privacy laws. So there was no way for him to even know one of his tenant's bills were a little overdue. In my opinion it's no one's business outside of the water company and the person the bill's name is in anyway. Even with all of that the board decided that he was responsible to an extent where they would not permit him to be on the ballot. 
This means current mayor Tom will be running unopposed if Brant's second attempt at justice in circuit court fails. This brings me back to my original remarks here. The power to have some control over something by my vote. I should have that say. I should be able to voice my opinion in where my city is headed. Not only that but now all the focus is on the ballot itself when this time should be spent on talking about each candidate's goals and plans and history. 
I wish Brant Walker all the luck he can get. I urge you, resident of Alton or not, to do some research and find out about your local politicians so you can make an educated vote. There tends to be minimal fanfare in local elections, especially since it's on the heals of the presidential election. These are the most important ones. These are the people and policies that effect your day to day life more than anything else. Pay attention and do something with your vote instead of complaining about things. If I have only one option this April you can bet I'll be writing my vote in.   
If you want more info on everything going on Brant Walker's Facebook page is a great place to get it.

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