Getting our town’s budget ready took time.  The City Manager asked the department heads to give him a “wish list” of all the items they wanted to have.  Then he added them all up and figured out how high the tax rate would have to be pay for every department’s wishes. 

            Then he figured out a tax rate based on none of the wishes coming true.   We, the city council, chose a tax rate which would allow SOME of the wishes to come true, but not all.  This resulted in a very slight increase in the tax rate, based upon the most recent valuation of properties within the city.  We had some wiggle room in the budget because the city grew a lot in the last year by having annexed some new subdivisions and by selling off some acreage that it has owned for a long time. 

            So we had a pretty good budget, we all agreed, and then we held some public meetings (where not much of the public attended, and by not much I mean three people) and then at a regular council meeting (my last as a city councilman) we officially passed the budget.  We stuck with our new budget almost ten whole minutes.

            It happened because of the town’s gardener.  

            The City of Clarkesville has a gardener named Charle’, and she’s done a good job.  The gardens around town have never looked better, and some of them have never existed until recently.   When a person makes the town look good, most city councilpersons don’t want them to go away, and some councilpersons want to do nice things for such persons.  One of my fellow councilpersons thought that the gardener deserved a nice raise and an assistant, too.  Of course, he could have thought of this back before the budget was set, but he didn’t.  I think my fellow councilperson, who frequently enjoys confronting the city manager, just couldn’t help himself.  He got to be a hero to the gardening lady and a gadfly to the city manager at the same time. 

            And that, boys and girls, is how the whole nation’s budget gets messed up, only the numbers are much, much larger and the confrontations are covered on the evening news.  But the process is the same.  The Congress gets to be a hero to the homefolks and a gadfly to the executive branch, which has to be a whole lot of fun considering the condition of the V.P.’s heart valve system.  Plus, whole buildings full of accountants get to crunch numbers after the president and the Congress have not paid the slightest bit of attention to the actual entries, which fill up thousands of pages. 

            Someone once said that all politics are local, and they were probably correct. They might even have had Clarkesville, Georgia, in mind.  How marvelous to think that I was able to participate in the busting of a real budget, done for an actual government!  Of course, I voted to give the gardener a raise and an assistant.  I didn’t want to mess with the city manager’s budget, and I wanted the council to take the money out of some other part of the budget to spend it on flowers and shrubbery.   But I knew they wouldn’t do it.  Fortunately, I was finishing my stint on the council, and while the council will have to worry about balancing the checkbook, I’ll get to enjoy the nice flowers and shrubs.   

            Not exactly a Jeffersonian Moment of Statesmanship, but I can live with it.