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    Billboard Blasts Council

    BY Dianna Gee
    04/19/2004
    by Dianna Gee on 4/19/04.

    The billboard located off the busy Beltline in Decatur reads 'Remember those who gave you 9 percent sales tax and 19.9 million dollar debt.' It's a message Ray Metzger hopes voters will ponder when they head to the polls August 24th.

    "It will run like this for about a month. The idea is to get them to remember that and to vote," he says. "There's a little blank space at the bottom and it will say, 'If we don't vote, will they go away?'"

    Metzger and fellow council critic Terry Smith are members of "Citizens for a Sound Economy." Even two and half years after the council passed a one-cent sales tax the day after 9/11, these former military pilots remain appalled.

    "To see our city council more concerned about raising our sales tax than looking at what's happening in our country really added fuel to the fire," says Smith.

    Smith says the tax hike was sneaky because it never came up during a regularly scheduled council meeting. Instead he says it was passed during an executive session following a work session.

    "I believe people are angry and they see, we need a change. I believe we're gonna see the whole group go," Smith predicts.

    Of course it must be said, both of these men do have a political agenda of their own. Smith is running for mayor again after losing last election. Metzger is running for city council because he wants to represent the common man.

    "They don't go to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night and see poor people trying to buy everything with coupons and trying to get that extra dollar worth of food," says Metzger.

    While an extra penny may not seem like much, Metzger says it adds up. He says for every one hundred dollars spent, an extra dollar in someone's pocket could mean the difference between buying a half a gallon of milk or a whole one.

    In response, Mayor Lynn Fowler says he would like people to look at how the money was spent. He lists several projects he says would not have been possible with the approval of the additional sales tax. Those include: Parks and recreation projects (including Pt Mallard renovations), public safety improvements-- including twenty new police cars, and land for two new fire stations, and drainage work to deal with flood problems.

    Fowler says every aspect of the city has been addressed with improvement to equipment or facilities. He adds you can either move forward or go backwards, but you can't stand still.