Thoughts on Flags, both the City-kind and the Red ones

two flagsThere was a routine piece of legislation 17-46 at the last City Council meeting (3/21/17). It was an ordinance repealing the Code section designating an official City Flag.  The same evening we passed another piece of legislation 17-38 – a two- year economic development electric rate extension agreement with Allstate Insurance. I asked for clarification on the flag legislation, and the short discussion that followed ended up as a front page story in the Hudson Hub-Times, with nothing reported on the rate extension.

The rate extension extends the two year period for a special electric rate we originally offered Allstate for business retention.  They are one of our largest employers, so it is not unheard of to offer a special rate as incentive to retain jobs and taxes.  If you look at the kilowatt rate stated in the legislation, it is less than the cost the City pays for the power wholesale.  The difference is a loss in the hundreds of thousands per year. This is important, more important than retaining or eliminating a city flag. But one you read about, the other not.

I am not arguing against a discounted rate; Allstate generates critical income taxes and property taxes and stability to the community.  What I am saying is when you read about Council actions they often seems trivial because it is easier to report that type of news.  The bigger, complex  issues often don’t make the paper, or are lost in the meeting if you are watching. I don’t blame the paper or reporters; I find it difficult to share this type of info without going into pages of detail.

City Council has initiated extended departmental reviews in an effort to understand dynamics of our City budget in issues like electric rates for Allstate and how broadband may help our tax base.  Hudson City Council operates at a disadvantage compared to our neighboring Councils like Twinsburg , Stow and Boston Heights.  Those Councils assign areas of responsibility and oversight into committees. That affords them the opportunity to go into more detail on departmental operations.  We have chosen to go at it with a “Committee of the Whole” format (we call them”Workshops”) which limits the amount of time to the two to two-half hour segments along with all the routine business we discuss.  The reviews are a step in a direction to gaining more information for better Council decisions.

We are concerned about “flags” on Hudson Council –operational “red flags,” or maybe “yellow flags” if you are a race fan.  We’ve seen a few of both in the past five years. They represent critical decision points, opportunities where we as your appointed representatives have to stake out a direction.  I tell residents that if we (Council and staff) are doing our jobs correctly, Council is really not governing in 2017, but rather 2022 or 2027. The present day issues are mostly operational, and staff does a good job handling those.  We are paying attention to potential cautionary “flags,” on the road ahead.  The warning for the public is that is doesn’t make for a very compelling headline or riveting television.  Just know we are concerned with more than “city flags,” even if you don’t hear about it much!