There have been so many questions regarding our Chief of Police resigning, and I want to answer some of those questions here. One of the biggest questions has been about our police department’s budget, so I will begin there. When I was elected mayor in 2015, the police department‘s budget was at $734,395. It has steadily gone up over the past 5 years to $1,096,450 in 2020. Needs of the police department have been a regular topic during my time on the council, and the chief has consistently lobbied to make the department the best it can be. We have increased that budget steadily, and it is our biggest line item of all our departments. Having said that, there are still needs for our police department and other departments. We have been committed to keeping our tax rate steady for a number of years. Walking the line between keeping our tax rate low and effectively funding all of our departments has been one of the hardest tasks as an elected official.
While I have been aware of our chief’s frustration for some time, it has recently escalated to what happened Monday night. There were other issues brought up during the resignation that are easier to address than funding, and I believe the council should take action on those items as soon as possible. Our hiring procedures can be adjusted to give our next police chief more options when trying to hire officers. We should also involve our next police chief in council discussions far more than we have in the past. The feeling of not being heard was palpable during Dan’s remarks, and it would be extremely productive to hear from all of our department heads on a more regular basis. I also believe that encouraging a dialogue between the mayor and staff would help diminish the disconnect between city staff and policy makers.
Obviously, there are more issues at play than budgetary concerns. In every profession and in every life, there are relationship factors that come into play when trying to make any business or government entity work. As a council, we are actively working to get all the facts and work as a team to avoid similar situations in the future. I will be less public about personnel issues that arise as part of those endeavors, but I also want to be clear that some hard conversations are necessary and inevitable after what transpired at our last meeting. We are addressing, and getting to the bottom of various issues and rumors that have been circulating over the past two days. Our city employees should expect our council and mayor to handle personnel issues in executive session. Our city employees and our citizens should also expect obvious issues to be addressed meaningfully. Ringgold can be assured that we are working to make our city the best it can be. No one on our council is the type to put our head in the sand and ignore situations that almost literally slap us in the face.
The construction along Alabama Highway is progressing ahead of schedule, and we’re looking forward to having a nice highway with sidewalks running along both sides. That work will largely be finished by the end of the year. I’m also looking forward to working with our playground committee toward an inclusive playground by our city pool that can accommodate children and parents with disabilities. We have a lot of work to do on the front end of that project, but we have the plans in hand and a motivated set of individuals working to raise funds to make it happen. I would also like the city to partner with our Downtown Development Authority and local businesses to decorate our downtown district with lights for Christmas in 2020. I was encouraged to check out the City of Chickamauga’s light display in their downtown this year, and it was very well done. It would also be great to have some sort of Christmas tree lighting ceremony and to involve as many residents, businesses, and government organizations as possible. Lighting up city hall and the courthouse would be a great event that could bring many people into our downtown district for the event and throughout the holiday season.
I’m currently going through our charter and trying to find improvements we can make in order to better serve and represent the people that elect us into office. If you would like to look through our charter and find specific things you think could be tweaked, the link is HERE. I’d specifically be interested in hearing from business owners and developers about how we can attract, maintain, and encourage current and future developments that can enrich all of our lives.
A big point that has been coming up over and over again through the elections season and beyond is dealing with people speeding through residential areas. It is impossible to simultaneously patrol all these areas that are having constant issues, but something needs to be done in order for our residents to feel safe. I’m going to bring it to the council, our city manager, and our police chief to find effective ways to try and protect our city’s children from the constant danger that only a few are causing. Because we try to run a lean government in order to keep taxes low, there are simply not enough officers to watch every neighborhood and city street. We increased our budget for our police department again this year. I swore in another officer recently to bring our force up to fully staffed, but the problem is so prevalent that patrols alone are not enough. This is one of the biggest challenges I think we should be aggressively trying to tackle in the coming year.
Having a year in which there are no city elections will be nice. Political posturing and score keeping is generally kept to a minimum in those years. We can focus on providing efficient services that you expect, and support a robust and growing city.
Thank you for another term as your Mayor. As always, feel free to contact me at 423-653-7446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org