Public officials are still adjusting to the pauper lifestyle most cities are forced to live these days. Declining tax bases, rising deficits, and perpetual budget problems are forcing them to cut expenditures and look for spare dough.
You may joke that they're looking for loose change under the couch cushions, but it's not really a joke anymore. Take Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams' newest proposal to shave some money from the county's budget: doing away with free coffee at public meetings and canceling the county's newspaper subscriptions.
The sum total savings from these deep, deep cuts: about $1900 a year. His proposal has been met with equal parts nuttiness and scoffing.
Fellow Commissioners Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski rejected his idea, not just because the good-faith effort would barely register an impact, but because coffee and newspapers are essential. Essential, they say!
Kokoski said she understood where Williams, who replaces former Commissioner Betty Blair, is coming from.
“I want to save money as much as you do, Tom,” she said. “But I don’t know that coffee and newspapers is the place to start.”
Kalo said that serving coffee is a traditional business staple and if the county wants to operate like a business, coffee should continue to be available.
David Ashenhurst, a former member of Oberlin City Council who routinely attends commissioners meetings, said he would rather the commissioners stopped serving coffee than give up newspapers.
He disagreed with Williams’ assertion that the only people who benefit from the newspapers are the public officials.
Ashenhurst said that reading the newspaper regularly lets public officials know what is going on in the community and exposes them to the thoughts of the public in the letters to the editor section.
“There really is no substitute for reading local newspapers,” Ashenhurst said, who also pointed out that not everything in a print newspaper makes the online versions Williams said he reads.
No confirmation yet that Williams' next plan involves making employees bring their own paper clips from home.