What a mess.
While they went to the same Oct. 22 city commission meeting as I and many of you did – the one about annexation – it seems some of my neighbors walked away with a completely different understanding of the City of Decatur’s process for addressing the expansion of its borders.
Yesterday, one of my neighbors called me to say that several residents representing the pro-annexation side had dropped by her house hoping to get her signature. They assured her that their petition was not to give a nod to annexation itself; rather, it was only to request a vote on annexation. Since then, I’ve heard from or about four neighbors who had the same experience. Sign their petition, they've been told, and you’ll send the issue to a vote next year.
Now we have some residents of Springdale Heights, in Area B-1, who might have thought they had plenty of time to make up their mind about annexation by simply signing this group’s papers. But the movement is now. The City of Decatur wants to know now whether or not to move forward with a costly referendum in 2013.
So, what we have in Springdale Heights, intentionally or otherwise, is a failure to communicate the proper intent of the petitions. One simply is for annexation; another is against annexation. If the COD only wanted to know how many among us want to vote later on the issue, certainly one petition would have sufficed (or, a simple show of hands at that Oct. 22 meeting).
As should be expected, the breakdown in communication has its defenders. Generally speaking, the argument is made that nothing has been misrepresented, but clear fear – that the city will remove Area B-1 from consideration for annexation if it is not put to a vote – accompanies it.
One pro-annexation neighbor put it this way after I, admittedly, questioned the group's intent: “If there isn't a majority support for annexation in our neighborhood, then neighbors won't have an opportunity to vote next year, because if C.O.D decides to pursue annexation, they would take our neighborhood out of the area of consideration, as they have no interest in pursuing our neighborhood if there isn't majority interest in being annexed.”
Another pro-annexation neighbor stated, “If someone is on the fence now, they could sign yes, and not lock themselves out of an option later. This doesn’t set anything in stone.”
But that’s not the process the City intended, and the process is now compromised. One can only hope the City doesn’t suggest a vote is needed, after all, to clear up the confusion. What a slap in the face to my anti-annexation neighbors that would be; they'd never trust the City again, even if as residents. Plus, I have seen their stack of signatures, both impressive and correctly obtained.
So, how is this resolved? The deadline for turning in the petitions is today, so I’m challenging City Manager Peggy Merriss to have her staff take a couple of hours out of the next several weeks to verify signatures on the pro-annexation petitions for Area B-1. Did those residents intend to approve annexation now, or were they only interested in buying time to decide?
As another neighbor (who is against annexation) said, “No one made this issue up. It has happened and it is NOT good. Either by accident or intent, it reflects poorly on the efforts of the pro camp who I believe are perfectly honest people who would like to be assured ALL their efforts are above board.”