August 28, 2018

Silence is not an option in county’s financial crisis

     The easiest thing to do is criticize the county commissioners for our financial quagmire.   The habits of dipping into restricted funds and spending money we don’t have are inexcusable.  Beyond a major hike in property taxes, citizens should be upset.  Poor financial management is unacceptable.
     We can fuss.  And we can cuss, but neither will solve the crisis.  The answers will be found in a forward-thinking approach, a definitive action plan and determination.  Leadership is the key.  I remember what Lee Iacocca said when he took over the Chrysler Corporation, which was drowning in a sea of red ink.
     Iacocca explained that if your objective is to drain the swamp and you are up to your hips in alligators, you must do this.  Write down the 10 things you absolutely must do, and everything else has to wait.  I know the drill all too well.  If you own and operate a business, you know about those snapping gators, too.
     The newspaper you are holding in your hands is today’s news, but it also represents significant history, going back to 1865.  Your newspaper is the oldest continually operated business in Wayne County.  It’s been through wars, the Great Depression and our recent Great Recession.  The Press-Sentinel is a testament to the will to survive.  Other businesses in our community can say the same.
     We know what happened a decade ago.  Wall Street all but collapsed.   The American dream became a nightmare.  People realized their nest eggs were suddenly rotten.  And your newspaper saw many of its biggest advertisers evaporate.
     Several automobile dealerships, including Ford, Buick, GMC, Pontiac, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep, went away.  Some of our biggest customers shuttered before the financial turbulence. Do you remember Winn-Dixie, Kroger, Pantry Pride, Pic ‘N’ Save and IGA?  I do, and I remember the seven full pages of grocery advertising that left, too.  Kmart was a major customer, and now it’s gone. 
     In recent months, the Tariff Wars dropped bombs on West Walnut Street.  With fewer U.S. newsprint mills, we must depend on paper from Canadian sources.  In the past several months, we have been smacked with a tariff on newsprint.  Second to payroll, newsprint is our largest expense.  Tariffs might not have topped out yet.
     The Rev. Charles Swindoll said that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react.  As they say, “It is what it is.”  In our business, that’s the way we look at the 10 percent.  So much is out of our control.  That’s why we focus on the 90 percent of what we can do to navigate through crisis after crisis.  I have always believed in the adage “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
      Your newspaper has a 153-year history of survival.  While some doors closed, other windows opened.  We are grateful to our readers and advertisers for your support.  Our promise is to reward your loyalty with information you need and deserve to know.
     Now back to the county crisis.
     As citizens and taxpayers, we need and deserve more explanation of how this happened.  That’s the “it-is-what-it-is” 10 percent, which calls for intense scrutiny.  I was not at Monday night’s meeting, but ample reports say it was raucous.  People are mad and rightly so.  The past cannot be changed, but the future can and must be changed.
     Taxpayers should be vocal.  Silence—on either side—of this controversy isn’t an option.   We need to know, in specific terms, the county’s 90-percent reaction plan to solve this ugly financial crisis.