05/13/10 — Just a sandwich? Goldsboro City Council has to think about symbolism, too

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Just a sandwich? Goldsboro City Council has to think about symbolism, too

It might seem like a small thing, really. After all, it is just a barbecue sandwich.

But in the face of continuing concerns about the future of the city's budget, it is a symbol, really, of a sacrifice.

The men who serve on Goldsboro City Council are honestly trying to do what is right for the city -- even if sometimes some of their decisions can make citizens scratch their heads.

None of them are in their positions likely because of some secret windfall that comes to those who choose to serve on government bodies like the council. Although there is some compensation for service and some benefits to the connections such service provides, neither benefit can replace the hours away from home or the time spent answering late night phone calls and dealing with constituents' concerns.

To serve on a public body is a sacrifice and a responsibility -- and a commitment those who hold these positions understand before they take the job. They are choosing to donate some of their time and expertise to make their community a better place to live. Anyone who takes up the job of serving his or her community really does so, in part, because of a desire to give back.

So, the fact that they are spending about $5,000 a year on meals before their meetings start is not an earthshattering bit of information -- and not one that should make anyone form a posse.

But considering doing away with that expenditure is an opportunity for the council members to acknowledge that there will be a lot of people during this coming year who will have to do more with less -- and several charitable organizations that might not be able to serve as many people because of the money that the city could not afford to give.

A little more than $5,000 is not a lot in the scheme of things when you are talking about a multimillion-dollar budget. But $5,000 to the library, to the Arts Council and to the many other places where there will be cuts could mean the difference between keeping a program and having to shut it down.

Council members are asking the right questions and they will have to make some tough decisions about priorities, necessities and how best to manage the challenging budget situation that is before them.

And there will be people angry with their choices.

But one of those choices -- as insignificant as it might be -- is to choose to arrange a meal before the council meeting if you want to, but to pay for it yourselves.

Meals before council meetings are not going to bankrupt the city -- and they are not worth a protracted fight or citizen ire.

But to make the other decision is a sign of leadership, pure and simple.

And it's something that other elected boards who eat off the taxpayers' dime might consider as well.

Published in Editorials on May 13, 2010 10:49 AM