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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's it like to work at City Hall in this environment?

Below Ellen tells what it was like working part-time for the city during the February election. She is responding to the idea that people like Sue and I are bullies because we speak at city council meetings AGAINST the folks the TCU likes (bullies!). The fact that they speak out against the mayor and other council members is apparently cool (not bullies!).
This was when the TCU had all those lawn signs out saying the 1.9 millage increase would be a 29% tax increase. Anyone not paying attention (what would that be? 60-80% of Troy voters?) would think that meant a 29% increase to the entire tax bill, when it was just on the city portion (for me, it would have meant that instead of going down $600 in 2010, our taxes would have gone down $400, to pay for services we were in danger of losing).
Ellen was laid off shortly after as part of the city's ongoing budget cuts, so don't tell her that the city is operating as if it's "business as usual" (another in the series of commonly told TCU lies).

I was thinking about the whole "bully" idea being discussed... if you care, here's the type of bullying I experienced first hand at City Hall in the midst of the "discourse" surrounding the February millage election ...

A resident walked into the Community Affairs office demanding why the City could possibly be about to increase his property taxes by 29%. He was outraged. He was also a big man and, frankly, his rage and size were of personal concern. I tried to explain that the "City" was not going to be increasing his property taxes by 29%. He insisted that was what was going to happen ... "it says so on those election signs." I proceeded to explain that was a campaign slogan, of sorts, and that even if the millage passed his taxes were not going to go up 29%.

His voice raised, he moved closer to the counter and he actually slammed his fist on the counter and said: "They wouldn't put it on the signs if it wasn't true." I patiently tried to explain that the 29% wasn't a reference to his own property tax payment (as I considered how to pick up the phone and call for help from the police). He grew more and more agitated. "I trust those signs more than I trust YOU in this City Hall!" he said.

I took a deep breath. My challenge was to state facts without trying to sway a vote one way or another. And, meanwhile, his hatred of me was apparent due to the fact that he was convinced I was part of a group just trying to rip him off. "Well, ok, then, sir, then go ahead and vote 'no' because that is your right," I assured him. "But before you do, you are more than welcome to check at the Assessing Department and you can see for sure what will happen to your taxes if you vote yes and also if you vote no. Actually, either way, your taxes are likely to go down," I patiently tried to explain.

"But this is so confusing and I'm not sure who to believe," he said. About then, the City Assessor walked by the door, glanced in at me, read the look of fear on my face and came in to see if he could be of assistance. The man sort of calmed down as he once again reassured his property tax payment was not going to go up 29 percent, no matter the outcome of the election. But, he was completely confused as to how this could even be going on. We explained that home values are dropping and so property taxes were dropping and thereby the income to the city was dropping, so the millage was to partially offset that income drop.

"I am so frustrated and I can't believe you people are doing this," he said. He left angry at us, full of mistrust and not sure exactly what to believe, but was planning to vote "no," just to be sure.

And so it went throughout the winter and even into the spring. Phone calls and "stop ins" that were laced with venom and hatred toward City Hall and me, a faithful servant. We're not taking about discourse, we're talking about an irrational hatred and mistrust. I was even accused of being at fault for being at war in Iran at one point. And, yes, I was often afraid. You just never knew exactly what was going to be on the mind of the next resident coming in the door.

That is what bullying feels like. Those who appear before Council questioning, probing and seeking truth in discourse have not even come close to the type of behavior I experienced first hand provoked by the misleading information disseminated by this group. 

So, please, really ... don't cry wolf here. It's yet another exaggeration that, following the effect of the political tactics of the TCU, is making me nuts. You push and shove on the playground of life, eventually several kids are going to push back. Deal with it.


  1. What a great post, and thanks to Ellen for passing it along.

    As a former office-mate with Ellen in the Community Affairs Department, I can only imagine what it was like before the election, but even before then, mistrust and anger was brewing because of false information flowing about from the usual sources.

    I worked across the hall in a more technical area of the Community Affairs office, and on more than a few occasions I had to step across the hall because I heard an increasingly agitated person and a very patient Ellen discussing an issue. This was before March 2009...when I and a few others were laid off from various departments around the city. The thing that I never liked about being a city worker is that many people just didn't trust what you said, no matter what you said. For some reason, they just thought I was misleading them - and what, please tell me, would I gain from lying to anyone?

    And I didn't even have all that much face time with citizenry, yet I still felt that mistrust.

    I for one, as a citizen of Troy about ready to leave after 16 years, am glad that there is some push back finally brewing. And I know that I will be watching, even from afar, to see how it all plays out.

  2. Thanks Jeff. I know the haters won't pay much attention to all of this. But I don't understand why people think being an ill-paid city staffer means you are a fair punching bag. And for these jackals at TCU to claim that WE who are finally standing up to them are bullies and name-callers is an ASTONISHING act of hypocrisy! I hope you're all doing OK.

  3. There is No spoke person 4 TROY. When trying to get a question anwered competely,one had/has to go thru many people and get no where, no FAQ Sheets..only city I been in that worked this way.
    as a 1968 GRAD to dumb to move,,can't we all get along.