Let’s blame Jim Carns for our occupational tax disaster

Is Jim Carns responsible for our Jefferson County disaster?

Let’s blame Jim Carns for our occupational tax disaster.

Or how about other local House members who voted to pull the tax bill– Reps. Mary Sue McClurkin, Mary Moore, Arthur Payne, or Elwyn Thomas.

Well, while we’re at it, let’s attack Scott Beason—he’s the State Senator who killed the occupational tax last time it was proposed.

Now our County Commissioners must plan to cut millions of additional dollars from the fiscal 2012 general fund budget and that budget is drastically underfunded.

What a mess!

Who do we blame?

Well, quite frankly, it’s none of the folks mentioned above.

We should blame ourselves. It is our own fault.

We are the stupid fools that allow our state constitution to dictate that state legislators and not our County Commissioners have the authority to manage our county.

This post is not for or against the occupational tax.

This post is about dimwitted government structure.

How can we hold our Jefferson County Commissioners accountable if we don’t give them the authority or power to manage?

I know many of the aforementioned legislators. They are nice decent folks. They feel they are doing what their constituents want. But why should constituents in pockets of our county make decisions for the entire county?

Whatever happened to majority rules?

Our state constitution doesn’t allow home rule.

For those of you who don’t know—this is not the norm.

This is why our county is dysfunctional and we look so goofy!

David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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17 Responses to Let’s blame Jim Carns for our occupational tax disaster

  1. Scott Young says:

    Great post! It really makes you think about why Birmingham isn’t growing like it should. How can you attract businesses and people to an area with the problems we have here? I do believe that home rule would be a good thing for Jefferson County and revisiting the state constitution is a must. This area has just as much potential as any other great place to visit in the south. Let’s get to work!

    • David Sher says:

      Scott, thanks. Let’s see if we can others involved.

      • GB says:

        I agree that the constitution and the political way things are done is flawed. But, I also think that we have only ourselves to blame. YES, oursevles. The VOTING public. We have allowed and created the “career politicans” to make a mockery of the system. What has happened to the Public Servent? The elected officials who live, work and play among us in the area that they represent, who are able to better serve thier community and constituents becausee they are a part of the community and actually have operate under the laws that are passed (or not)? The ones who don’t sepearte themselves from the rest of us and function as other Americans and patriots. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO IS ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM, THEN YOU MUST REMEMBER THAT NAME RECOGNITION IS NO REASON TO CAST A VOTE FOR THE ONES WHO GOVERN AND SET THE POLICIES WE MUST LIVE BY THE NEXT TIME YOU ARE IN THE VOTING BOOTH. If we had elected our officials with more integrety (thiers and ours), we might not be in this mess.

  2. Henry Neff says:

    I live in Shelby County. I used to work in Jefferson County. I always thought the occupational tax was ridiculous and unfair.  Having said that, I agree with you David. Not only is our local governments dysfunctional but so is our state government. Birmingham and Jefferson County will not grow until we all pull together in a forward looking direction.

  3. Great post, David. You are spot on. It does make one wonder what it takes to get the citizens of the area fired up enough
    to demand change at the most basic level.

  4. Michael Calvert says:

    The constitution is our fundamental problem and one not easily solved, but how about
    changing the delegation’s rules that allow one senator and three representatives to veto
    any bill? Let’s call upon our legislators to change this just as congress was largely
    successfully called upon to stop earmarks. 

  5. Frank says:

    If recollection serves me, I don’t believe it was the constitution that drove us into
    bankruptcy. It is not the constitution that is in jail right now. It was a group of 
     individuals who had “home rule” and ran amuck. It was pressure form a wildly 
    irresponsible people in a boom economy who demanded more sewer capacity 
    to enable housing and commercial development in the southern part of our county. 
      It was a ridiculous miscalculation that led to building a sewer half way under the 
    Cahaba River before abandoning it along with the multi-million dollar tunnel digging 
    machine that is now entombed.
    We are but a microcosm of what is going on in our federal government…. 
    Too much debt sinks ships; spending that exceeds revenue leads to debt;
    nobody wants to give up their pet project; entitlements, including certain jobs,  
    burgeon the debt and prevent rational and necessary decisions. Cases in point of
    what it takes:  Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Governor Louis Fortuno of Puerto Rico. 
     Take a look at this YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FnFmngISQA
    Who has the guts to stand up? ‘Nuff said.

    • David Sher says:

      Frank, you are right on target that U.S. and local government is lacking.

      Please keep in that government structure created the opportunity for Jefferson County commissioners to be dishonest. There was no legislative, executive, and judicial branches to balance power. Hence commissioners could wield power with no control.

  6. Terry Justice says:

    Great read David. Spot on as usual. 

    We see the same problems throughout our region. How can we ever hold any group accountable if we don’t give them the authority to manage the entire process. This is akin to holding a manager accountablt for not reaching a quota, when we don’t let him/her hire the employees to carry out the daily duties. 

    At some point this all has to change if we are ever going to succeed! 

  7. Lou Willie says:

    You are absolutely right David that the major problem is our ridiculous constitution.  Running a close second though is the backward attitudes of a lot of our metro area citizens.  Until we all come together in some unified manner to try and improve the whole area, nothing good will happen.  No one likes taxes, but the reality is that it takes taxation to provide services that people expect from their government.  Can you imagine for a moment what will happen to the Jefferson County restaurant business if the County has to shut down inspections – one of the VERY useful services NOT required by statute.  A number of people get the sewer debacle confused with the funding issues of the County.  These are very different issues.  The sewer crisis was caused by the illegal shennanigans of a few – now jailed – politicians and some unscrupulous contractors.  The County funding crisis was caused by the greed and ineptitude of the State Legislature.  There is no single solution for both issues.  While I am certainly not in favor of paying the outrageous sums “donated” to the court appointed administrator of the sewer system, it may be time to get some professional management in place.  That may be a separate quasi-government authority, or it may be just hiring a real system manager who actually has experience running a system instead of the politicians on the Commission trying to run it.  Either way, we all will be faced with some amount of a rate increase.  That’s just where we find ourselves right now.  Another part of that is the non-user fee.  Lots of people gripe about it, but it’s no different than the taxes that go to pay for schools that we don’t use when we have no children, or our children go to private or parochial schools.  It’s no different than the money that goes to State and Federal parks that we don’t use.  It’s called infrastructure, and it is every citizen’s responsibility to pitch in.  I wish we could get to a point that a serious discussion about metro consolidation could at least begin.  Carve out the sacred cow of school systems for a later date, but at least talk about eliminating the multitude of duplicitous services that the umpteen municipalities in Jefferson County are paying for.  All of the Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, emergency responder communication systems that don’t even allow direct communication with another municipality’s agency, the list goes on and on.  Think of the millions that could be saved – maybe even billions.  Think of the savings in tax incentives that wouldn’t be given away if we had a unified effort to recruit business to the Metro as opposed to a neighboring municipality.  It is time for a change in our leadership.  One that nurtures Statesmen instead of Politicians.  One that allows our leaders to make tough decisions for the good of the whole area, even if it’s not particularly popular.  IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE!
    Sorry for the rant, but my nausea from this whole situation got the best of me. 

  8. GB says:

    I agree that the constitution and the political way things are done is flawed. But, I also think that we have only ourselves to blame. YES, ourselves. The VOTING public. We have allowed and created the “career politicians” to make a mockery of the system. What has happened to the Public Servant? The elected officials who live, work and play among us in the area that they represent, who are able to better serve their community and constituents because they are a part of the community and actually have to live and operate under the laws that are passed (or not)? The ones who don’t separate themselves from the rest of us and function as other Americans and patriots.  
    IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO IS ULTIMATELY RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE SYSTEM, THEN YOU MUST REMEMBER THAT NAME RECOGNITION IS NO REASON TO CAST A VOTE FOR THE ONES WHO GOVERN AND SET THE POLICIES WE MUST LIVE BY THE NEXT TIME YOU ARE IN THE VOTING BOOTH. If we had elected our officials with more integrity (theirs and ours), we might not be in this mess

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