My family and I moved to Italy in 2007, so I am not a long time resident of the city. But I am a native Texan. My personal belief is that the City Government could use some new blood. No one has opposed Mayor Jackson for several years, and 2 years ago, after he faced no opposition, his salary ballooned to the point that he is paid more than all of the other mayors in Ellis County combined. (see story excerpt 2 & 3) What else has happened in Italy during Mayor Jackson’s tenure? A good part of the central business district has become a residential area. Tax rates have soared and I do believe that the population has dropped. Two years ago, while trying to become members of the Chamber of Commerce we found out that Susan Delephime, the city court clerk, was misusing Chamber of Commerce funds. We alongside Karen Mathiowetz worked to uncover what was happening. Karen Mathiowetz was very supportive in my wanting to get involved in the city government.
I was appointed to the Italy EDC, and installed as Secretary/Treasurer. After being in the post for about 2 weeks, I discovered that the EDC had not submitted yearly paperwork to the State of Texas since before 2000. Being an officer in a Corporation be it public or private carries responsibilities and liabilities as well. When the Mayor drug his feet on getting the problem corrected, I promptly resigned at the recommendation of an attorney.
The city has illegally annexed miles of roads. For what purpose? Looking at the number of traffic citations written on these new parts of Italy, it would appear to be for income from traffic citations. Twice in the previous 18 months I have called 911 because someone was prowling around the vacant house next door. The first time, a Milford Officer showed up almost 5 minutes before Italy officer did. The last time, after 3 calls to 911 and almost 45 minutes had passed, a Texas State Trooper and Ellis County Sheriff’s deputy both showed up, with the Italy PD showing up last. My feeling on this is that it is more important to the City Administration to augment ticket revenue on I35 rather than protect and serve the City Of Italy. In My opinion, Italy PD needs to leave the Interstate to the DPS and the Sheriff’s department and take care of our city. (see story excerpt 3)
Mayor Jackson wants to take credit for sales tax revenues increasing from $30,000 a year to over $200,000 a year. Mr. Mayor, can you show that you had any conversations with Mr. Sharaf about him developing the area at I-35 and Hwy 34? Mr. Sharaf made a good business decision. Italy is halfway between Hillsboro and Waxahachie. This development, along with the sales tax rate increase, and the citizens voting in beer and wine sales that have brought the revenues up to over $250,000.00 a year. I would like to concur with Karen Mathiowetz about the jury being out on whether these additional funds have seen their way into improvements for the residents of Italy. (see story excerpt 1)
I spoke with Karen on Friday, and she told me that she was ashamed of me because " I had aligned myself with Joey Dauben". She also went on to say in so many words that anyone who was in that position was not good for Italy. Do you forget, Mrs. Mathiowetz, that it was you who introduced us in the first place? Do you remember in late 2008, wanting to do what was needed to expose what was going on at City Hall, within the current administration? Do you remember telling me that someone needs to take his place because Italy was just going down the tubes? I guess that is as long as that person has nothing to do with Mr. Dauben.
I have spent the evening reading your editorials and stories over the past 3 years. You have not shown such an outcry of support for Mayor Jackson in your articles until this letter to the editor. In several of your previous letters you have expressed your irritation at the current administration’s policies and choices. Including the Mayor’s illegal salary. Do not forget, the Mayor is the leader of the city government. There is no doubt in my heart that you truly do love the City of Italy and the people that live here. But, I also believe that your distaste for Mr. Dauben’s attacks on the school board have blinded your ability to see things the way you did in the past. May I quote you Karen, form your article April 27, 2009.
“Freedom is one of those rights and I have chosen to exercise that right, no matter how popular my opinion may be or who might disagree with me.”
Joey Dauben has that right as well…
While I will agree that Mr. Dauben is over zealous and ruthless, I do believe that he does what he feels is in the best interest of the general population of the cities that he has newspapers in. Without a free press, and people to ask the tough questions what would our local, state and federal governments be like? Although my agenda is different than Mr. Dauben’s , we share the belief that government should be transparent and conduct business in the open. This is why I would recommend that Italy become members of the TexasTransparency.org, an organization that helps local governments show their citizens where the money goes. If our local government was operating openly and transparently, then Mr. Dauben and his ilk, would have nothing negative to proclaim about Italy.
Finally, I am glad that some local businessmen have filed to run for the School Board. If we could get some new blood in there as well as the City Council, we could come a long way in getting Italy off of the list of cities that Mr. Dauben wants to rail against. A bonus would be having some clear thinking individuals who will help get expenses in line with the size of our school system.
I for one am tired of the City Government and the ISD School Board costing all of us more money than we need to be spending as taxpayers. I heard someone who I will consider older and wiser than myself say this.
“Those with nothing to hide, hide nothing.”
Candidate for Mayor, City of Italy
Even if you disagree with me, please get out and vote on May 14th. Without everyones vote a democracy, is only a government of some of the people
Excerpt 1 from-Letter to the Editor: Beer and wine sales
by Karen Mathiowetz October 29, 2009, 3:00 p.m.
“When the new businesses opened out by the interstate, I was elated to have somewhere I could buy milk or whatever 24 hours per day. It was also nice to have additional options for eating out. I welcomed and supported them then as I do now. I remember hearing at a city council meeting when these businesses were being approved that our sales tax base would increase which would give us added revenue for streets and other things we needed.
The sales taxes have increased to over $250,000 per year. This is a good thing. I am now trying to decide if our city services and streets have improved since the new businesses have come. The jury is still out on that one. I love Italy and am proud to tell anyone where I hail from. Born and raised here, Italy is special along with the people that make here what she is – the biggest little town in Texas and as far as I am concerned, the best little town in Texas.”
“My second point is this. If this passes and we do have an increase in sales tax revenue, does that mean our streets will improve, our water improve or our city services improve? I don’t have the answer for that. Having more money means just that – having more money to spend. It does not mean that things will improve. Have the streets improved since our sales tax increased? Is the water better since our sales tax increased? Do we have a cleaner town since our sales tax increased? You be the judge”.
Excerpt 2 from-An open letter to the Italy City Council
by Karen Mathiowetz April 27, 2009, 1:30 p.m.
“I, for one, cannot understand in such an unsure economic time, why any council member could in good conscience, spend $15,600 per year that had not come up in budget workshops or laid out in the current budget. I may be wrong but I thought they had to stick to the budget except in case of an emergency. I don’t think the increase in salary was an emergency.
I would have hoped that the issue would have gone to the voters to see what we wanted the council to do. Something of this magnitude should have been at least discussed in open session to allow citizens to voice their opinions. It only came up at that last meeting and all discussion was done in executive session. I know this was legal, but sometimes being legal is not all that should be required of public servants. Doing the right thing for those that elected them is. Taking it to the citizens with a referendum would have been the right thing to do. Discussing it one meeting and then voting the next would have been the right thing to do.”
Excerpt 3 from-Our elected officials “snuck” one in on all of us…how many more?
by David B. South August 24, 2009, 8:15 a.m.
“Plus what does it say for the sneaky tactics of our city administration. We should be very proud of them. The code is too clear to say it was a mistake. And if it was a mistake why not rescind and correct the mistake. Why was it done in the first place? Was it to give more miles to write tickets on?
I personally apologize for taking so long to catch on. I now know that the city council can pass and ordinance and if it isn’t challenged within two years then it stands. My assumption is this applies to the new mayor salary as well – that obviously did not fit in the code.”
Excerpt 4 from-Change zoning to grow Italy
by David B. South Sr. January 21, 2009, 1:52 p.m.
“We need to encourage people to set up businesses in Italy, not to drive them away. If this simple phrase get a special use permit is added to this commercial enterprise or any other business the value of the property is severely compromised. If I am the owner, I know I may not make it as a business and have to sell the property or go bankrupt. If I know that the new buyer has to jump through the hoops to get another special use permit, I know that the property is not worth nearly as much as if I can sell it to a buyer for any commercial enterprise so listed for that commercial zoning. Remember the new business has to be appropriate for the zoning.”