OUR OPINION: Look before you leap and think before you ink

We all know the adage: “Look before you leap.”

Fulton and Callaway County residents should take heed.

There are currently two petitions being circulated regarding local government and private business.

The Fulton Sun supports grass-roots movements by individuals or groups to garner support by way of petition or other means to accomplish a goal. However, we do want to caution residents to not be cavalier with their signature.

The first petition is by Kathy Segerson asking for the state to audit the city of Fulton’s utility department. She has accused the utility department of bills for larger amounts than they should be. (See articles in the April 15, May 18 and May 28 editions of the Fulton Sun.)

She needs 494 signatures — 15 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the last municipal elections — to prompt the state to investigate at the city’s expense. That is, at the taxpayers’ expense. Following state statute, the city already spends $35,000 annually with an independent auditing firm that has experience and integrity auditing municipalities. State intervention would cost Fulton residents as much as $50,000 to repeat the process by the state.

The city’s finances, budgets and expenditures are open record. Anyone is allowed to peruse these documents during normal business hours or obtain a copy to review at their leisure. City Council meetings are open to the public and streamed online live for public viewing.

The Fulton Sun is a supporter of open records, open meetings and transparency of government. We believe the city of Fulton is as transparent as any municipal government can be when it comes to budgets/expenditures and access to those records.

While at times there may be individual issues with bills — accidents happen, miscommunication occurs, etc. — the audits have shown that overall there is integrity in accounting practices with the city’s utility department.

The other petition is by a group of residents in the Kingdom City area — referring to themselves as “Friends of Responsible Agriculture” — against a proposed hog confinement. (See articles in the June 6, 11, 15, 18 and July 1 editions of the Fulton Sun.)

There are legitimate concerns of foul odors, pollution, increased traffic, etc. associated with the hog facility. There are legitimate positives like the economic growth it would spur in Callaway County if Eichelberger Farms bring in 7,600 sows and 2,720 swine to the 20-acre plot that is currently Horstmeier Farm.

There’s a fine line between not wanting government to interfere with business and neighbors wanting more say in what’s being built next door. Callaway County currently has no zoning restrictions. Our neighbors to the south in Cole County are currently debating the pros and cons of zoning in the unincorporated areas. A petition asking for regulation could prompt the same debate here.

The bottom line: You should read the language on any petition carefully and research it before inking your name. The groups circulating the petition will not want you to wait because even if you agree with their cause, it’s not likely many will sign the petition later. Signing one name on a petition may seem trivial, until there are enough of those one names to cause an action that in retrospect didn’t seem such a good idea.

So, look before you leap and research before you sign.

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