On November 5, the citizens of Irmo will go to the polls to vote for more than just a mayor and 2 council members – you will also be asked to vote on the referendum questions on the ballot. As all of the above will have far reaching consequences for the town and our way of life, it is imperative that we all understand what we are voting for. This has motivated me to reach out to inform citizens of my position on these matters, as political stunts should not be mistaken for transparency or integrity.

Opinion by Barry Walker

1.        Should the town overturn the No Parking in the yard ordinance? – Mayor King

This is a most controversial issue due to the fact that Mayor King and the 2 incumbents running for re-election ignored a standing room only audience of citizens opposed to the law and passed Councilman Waites’ agenda item. Petition signatures were also ignored. Little to no thought was given to the consequences or the concerns raised. The end result was a conflict in the ordinances that resulted in citizens not being able to street or yard park until this oversight could be remedied. The other most voiced concern was car break ins, as many drivers would be forced to park their vehicles on the street – this is a problem that will need to be addressed in the near future, as it has come to pass.

Over the last two years citizens have spent hard earned money to comply with this ordinance. Now, at election time, Mayor King wants to ask the citizens if they want to repeal it? Unlike the last referendum, it was not law before the citizens were asked for input.

I feel that the best way forward is for flaws in the ordinance to be addressed and remedied by amending the wording in the town code.

2.         Should the Town bring back a property tax in order to provide more services (Examples:   Road repairs, street sweeping, hire more police officers and/or staff?) – Mayor King

Mayor King motivates for this issue by claiming that bringing back the Town tax would provide for more services.

The police department is currently not fully staffed with its current budget and the county is responsible for road repairs at no expense to the town. When street sweeping was suggested about two years ago, Mayor King advised that this service was too expensive for consideration.

Up to now the town has taken great pride in the fact that residents do not pay property tax and this has likely held appeal to prospective buyers. This raises some red flags as to why this should now become a consideration.

One likely reason is the town being sued by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) for not allowing a disabled person to obtain a variance to build a suitable/safe carport on their property. Regardless of whether the law suit is lost or settled, at the end of the day, bad decisions by the majority of council is going to cost the town big dollars. This is the real reason why we may need a tax increase. The entire issue could have been totally avoided by adhering to Federal law  and allowing a variance for a carport to be built to accommodate the needs of a disabled citizen on their property.

3.         Should the Town approve a Hospitality Tax to pay for more tourism related events?  (Examples: concerts in the park, outdoor art and/or a social media manager) – Mayor King

We currently have an accommodation tax which is being used for tourism events.

We had a committee whose function was to award this tax money to organizations that qualified for and requested it.

Last year the Accommodation Committee allocated the funds to several groups that qualified and applied for funding. Mayor King disregarded the Committee’s recommendation and Council voted to award all the available funds to a group that never applied through the proper channels.

We are now looking for a new Accommodations Tax Committee.

It also stands to reason that Irmo wishes to encourage new business in our town.

Building Relationships Matter!

In conclusion, please remember that the referendum outcome in no way obliges council to approve any changes and can be used only for community input.