Something happened during a recent Q&A with the Jefferson County Commission members that has struck a chord with me, and as I have contemplated it, I feel the need to share my perspective.
During my speech, I stated repeatedly that the citizens of this community are worried about the health and safety of our community, especially our children. This is a community movement of parents from all walks of life, all socio-economic statuses, all religious beliefs, all political affiliations. At the core, we are parents who are scared for the health and safety of our own kids, and the kids of our neighbors.
Once I completed my statement, the JCC asked us questions. The first question was from Patsy Noland. I had raised so many concerns during my speech of transparency in the Jefferson County Development Authority, and the desire for the JCC to make the brave, courageous, right choice to rescind the PILOT agreement.
You know what her question was?
She wanted to know how many of us are being paid by the nonprofit.
This is so offensive on so many levels. Right after we asked that the JCDA be required now and in the future to declare any potential financial conflicts of interests, and any conflicts if they develop, she wants to know who is paying us to exercise our First Amendment rights.
I laughed and said, “None.” No one in our organization is paid to do the hard work of speaking up courageously to challenge what we believe are the wrong decisions made by our government. The only people who are paid are the attorneys at Arnold & Bailey. We have hundreds of people who support Jefferson County Vision as volunteers from events committees, PR teams, community organizers, canvassers and the legal team. We also have six brave individuals who signed up to be board members of the organization. They have put their names on the line because this is a cause they believe in so strongly, that sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option.
You do not put heavy industry in next to schools. Period.
You do not operate in the shadows to give large foreign or domestic businesses tax breaks to pollute us. Period.
You do not insult your constituents by assuming that the only explanation for why we fight, is because we must be getting paid.
Our board members are courageous. Courageous because they have publicly exposed themselves, and are putting so much of their lives on hold, to save our kids. To save our community. Courage doesn’t mean you are free of fear. It means that despite fear, you’re willing to fight anyways. You’re willing to defend those who by themselves may not be able to.
My message to the JCC: Quit cowering behind threats of lawuits from Rockwool, and pretending you have no options. Quit pretending like you had no part in this and that all of the fault is on Ranson when you knowingly signed the PILOT, even though several commissioners hadn’t even read it prior to the meeting. Do something novel in government and be brave!
If you can’t be courageous enough to ask the righteous questions and rescind unfair tax breaks, then you need to step down and let those in this community willing to fight for our kids take your place.