The meeting lasted more than four hours, with citizens from young moms to retired veterans getting a turn at the podium to voice their concerns.

The end result, astonishing as it was, turned out the way they wanted.

Thursday night


, hundreds of St. George residents packed St. George's city council chambers to voice their concerns about a proposed tax hike, the money earmarked to make St. George a safer place (police and fire resources).

Lest anyone think otherwise, every speaker mentioned that they wanted St. George to be safe, that the police, fire and other first responders deserved raises and financial support.

But as the night unfolded, it was clear that the overriding belief in the room was that the money was already in the more than $500-million-dollar budget, it just needed to be found.

"It's a very bad time," to take money away from citizens, said one St. George resident.

"We're still paying nearly five dollars a gallon for gas, four bucks for a gallon for milk," said another.

When the evening started, it seemed like the new tax was a done deal, and all the public comments were just for show, a necessary evil that had to be done before the council members could move this thing forward.

But something happened on the way to the vote. The feeling in the room started to change. Yes, council members said near the end of the meeting, we do need more money for our first responders. But maybe trying to take more from our citizens isn't the best idea.

After dozens of emotional pleas to kill the tax hike (plus a few, mostly first responders and their wives, endorsements of the tax hike), the time was given to the council members to have their say.

It became clear that Dannielle Larkin was still going to vote for the tax raise, while Michelle Tanner was still going to vote against it.

But what would the other three (Greg McArthur, Natalie Larsen and Jimmie Hughes) do?

Each gave a short speech, but failed to tip their hands. Even up until the motion was officially presented, I believed the tax increase would pass.

Then came the moment of truth.

Mayor Michele Randall
Mayor Michele Randall

"All right council, we've heard your comments, we've heard all the comments tonight," Mayor Michele Randall said. "Now the tough decision has to be made and (pause) does anybody want to make a motion for the truth in taxation public hearing and consider the approval of the resolution determining the rate of tax for fiscal year 2022-2023?"

"Mayor, I'll make that motion," Larkin said almost immediately.

"Motion by Dannielle, do I have a second?" Randall said.

Silence. Nothing. A nine-months pregnant pause.

A full 29 seconds of absolute quiet.

Finally, Hughes breaks the silence by asking the city manager what happens if it doesn't pass. The answer is that they've got to find the money to fund Safe St. George from other programs.

It leaves a lot of work ahead for the city council. But it also mirrors what the citizens want.

That's the good news out of all this. The council listened to the citizens. They were sensitive to the temperature in the room, so to speak. They took to heart that us citizens are hurting for money right now, with inflation costing us hundreds every month.

I hope they can find the money they need to make everything work. I hope that the first responders get everything they need.

I hope St. George can still be a safe place to live.

After all, hope is what the city council gave us all last night. A confirmed hope that our council members do actually listen to their constituents.

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