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October 29, 1996

Many of the questions now being asked concerning the Perry Improvement Program were answered at the town forum held last Thursday night in the high school auditorium. A panel composed of city officials, Perry Memorial Hospital officials, and others involved in preparation of this package received questions from the floor and answered virtually each one. The only questions left unanswered were a few which did not relate to the bond issue, and Mayor Hollingsworth promised even those questions would be answered one-on-one, though not at the forum.

Anyone with a question about the proposal had an opportunity to get straightforward answers at the town forum. It was well publicized in advance, but only a handful of people showed up. Some wondered if the World Series game on television helped hold down the crowd. Others say various other things were going on in the community that night, but the turnout must have been perplexing to our city officials. They tried to add to our understanding. The affair was set up to clarify points of contention, so why weren't more people on hand?

It may be that some folks with reservations about the package felt they would be intimidated by such an atmosphere, but even so some members of the "loyal opposition" did attend and they did place their questions on the table for officials to deal with. They are to be commended for being there and speaking up. They received honest answers. It was a cordial environment and that should not have been a deterrent to anyone who wanted to know the truth.

The reason for the small crowd may just be apathy, the thing that plagues this nation at every election, from the smallest municipality to the nation-wide election for President every four years. Some say we have been taken over by professional politicians so there's no use going to the precinct booths to vote. In truth, the politicians haven't taken over. We have handed the reins to them by default. We don't take the time or the trouble to vote, much less inform ourselves adequately, so the politicians pretty much have their way. Then we sit back and complain and write unhappy letters to the editor about how we're being abused.

On November 5, next Tuesday, voters in the city of Perry will have an opportunity to express themselves on a three-pronged Perry Improvement Program. A "yes" vote will authorize the addition of a 2.75 sales tax with proceeds to be used to provide the city with an alternative water supply, repair our worn out streets, and update Perry Memorial hospital to bring it into line with today's usage.

Some wonder why all three propositions are included in a single package. Is "the hospital" trying to slip something over on us by tying their proposition to the other two? Actually, the hospital is owned entirely by the city of Perry (that's you and me), not some outside megacorporation. It is ours, just like the swimming pool and other municipal properties. Officer Tim Davidson was one of those with this legitimate question in mind until he attended the town forum last week. In a letter to the editor of this paper last Friday, Officer Davidson explained how he learned at the forum that the city council (not "the hospital") combined the three based on sound economic reasons. By placing all of them under one bond project, significant amounts of bond fees and interest will be saved.

Another question at the forum seemed to suggest that physicians in the hospital clinic building are being furnished office suites at no cost to them. In truth, they pay a substantial monthly rental fee based on the current local market. They know that if the new clinic building is approved, their rent will nearly double, and they still are supporting the proposition. They are not being subsidized with free rent.

The amount of the proposed sales tax increase will only bring our local rate up to the level of virtually all of our neighbors. Some of them also are laying plans for additional increases to help pay for maintenance or upgrades in their own communities. Towns and cities have to do that in order to operate. Enid, for example, also will vote next month on a sales tax proposal. Most of it will go for economic development but some may be allocated for so-called "quality of life" projects, such as a proposed new downtown baseball park. In Perry, we built an excellent new baseball park primarily with contributions and volunteer labor. Taxpayers were not asked to fund that project. That's the Perry way of doing it.

Our local officials are asking us to provide funding for a water supply, street repairs and adequate medical care. No one likes to pay more taxes, but what could be more basic than those?

There's still time to arm yourself with information if you have questions. The Journal has been running a series of articles to explain details of the Perry Improvement Program, and even more information is available by inquiring at City Hall. Our officials know that an informed electorate will support this program because they have pride in Perry. They are not trying to slip something past us or asking us to buy a pig in a poke. An honest effort is being made to lay out all the information in a clearly stated way.

Don't fail to vote next Tuesday. And don't be misled by someone telling you that officials are trying to trick you into something. They're not. The Perry Improvement Program is just one of the many important issues to be settled. The honest facts have been laid out. Learn all you can about each of them, and then go vote. Let's have a record turnout in Perry and all of Noble county. Let's get the Perry Improvement Program in high gear.