To the Editor:
Only if you have searched for housing within the past year can you fully appreciate the dilemma our young city manager and his family face. Housing prices have soared. If you find a house you can afford, you better buy it quickly; it won’t be on the market long.
It is a hot time for residential real estate. On the whole, that is good for all of us. Our house values are going up. But it has consequences. One is that people like Mr. Ray are being squeezed out of the market.
Now, we want a city manager to live in the city he manages for several reasons. Most importantly, we think he should be a part of the community he serves. Do we think that Mr. Ray, with a wife and three children attending local schools, who is working every day with community organizations and leaders, will be less a part of our community if he lives a half a mile outside the municipal boundary? That is not rational. We want him to live in the city so he can quickly respond to incidents, like a flume collapse. The city manager needs to be on-the-spot. Is he going to be less on-the-spot if he lives a mile outside the city limits? That is not rational.
The man is not asking to live in Tullahoma, for goodness sake. The city manager is the only city employee that is required to live within the city limits. We have police officers and firefighters, who need to be on-the-spot, who live outside the city. Police even get to drive their police cars to and from their job. We find that acceptable, and justify it. We do not say they live in the county to escape the city taxes that pay their salaries and put gas in their cars.
The idea that Mr. Ray is seeking some minimal relief from the limiting provision of his contract because he wants to “escape” city taxes is insulting; it is founded on confused ideas. It is not a joke for him to say that by living in the city he would have trash collection. Our city taxes provide us with services that are not available in the county. It does not make sense to say that this man, who has been diligently searching for a home that he can afford for his family in Shelbyville, who needs to put this unsettledness behind him as he learns about and serves our community, is seeking to live a bit outside the city limits so he can “escape” city taxes. That diminishes the real reasons, and is not rational.
We need to support this man; to understand his problem, and not be an unnecessary hindrance to its resolution. The City Council needs to support the man it chose to guide us, and not nickel-and-dime issues that have great impact on him and his ability to do his job. Being the city manager is hard; don’t make it any harder unnecessarily.
Shelbyville City Manager, 2000 - 2009