#039;Silent majority#039; not quite as silent as some believe

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

For several months, yours truly has been asking around town trying to look for the elusive group known affectionately as the "silent majority."

Several members of the Ironton City Council have blamed the SM for lots of decisions.

Of course, that's if you believe the SM really exists.

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Perhaps not since the O.J. Simpson murder trial and subsequent acquittal has an issue been more polarizing than the City of Ironton's financial situation. And the existence of the "real killers," also known as the silent majority, has been up for debate right along with which version and amount of a municipal fee the city should adopt.

Now, some folks might think I'm merely poking fun at this. Hardly.

I've long since stopped laughing about the city's fiscal state. It has never been funny, but it lost any semblance of a smile when the sides became divisive and the accusations and name-calling began to fly.

So for quite some time, the hunt for the SM has been an ongoing mission.

The real question boils down to: Is a large segment of Ironton's population opposed to adding a municipal fee?

Trying to get a "yes" or a "no" answer on this is about as tricky as getting Bill Clinton to admit to actually doing anything inappropriate.

Several council members have pondered the question and tried to answer it for me.

They didn't have much luck, though several say the majority must exist, evidenced by the number of anti-fee telephone calls the council members have received.

Then, last week, it hit me. It was one of those "eureka" moments when you realize that the answer you've been seeking was obviously right in front of you.

To find the silent majority, one need look no further than the elections in November 2003 and November 2004.

In 2003, the administration of the city changed. A new mayor, John Elam, was elected on a platform that the city needed a "change."

A year later, after watching the Ironton City Council bicker and debate about the budget situation and the reduction of the city's workforce to help get the budget in order, voters headed back to the polls.

On the ballot were two issues that would have helped the city of Ironton become more solvent. A 0.5 percent increase on the city's income tax was handily defeated. The SM had spoken.

Then, in the most baffling of situations, a simple renewal of the existing floodwall maintenance tax levy was defeated. Again, the silent majority had spoken.

Unfortunately, no one liked what the silent majority had said, especially in the wake of floodwall levy defeat.

If the council audience had been polled at the meetings prior to the 2004 election, no doubt, few would have guessed that the floodwall levy would sink.

That brings us back to today. Judging by the audience members who attend the City Council meetings, one would think any kind of municipal fee would be a shoe in.

But, then again, we'd all have said the same thing about the floodwall levy, too.

The silent majority, they're a tricky lot.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445, ext. 12 or by e-mail to kevin.cooper@irontontribune.com.