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Politicians fiddle, Rome burns
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The state of affairs in Newton County deteriorates but avoids the attention of key office holders like the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education. We are awash with discussions that hold our attention with notions of discretionary endeavors for Civic Centers, Green Parks, Hiking Trails and other niceties. These type projects are worthwhile when held in their proper place. When will we learn fiscal discipline with a proper order of priorities that focus our energy, resources and devotion to improving the basic quality of life? A county with employment opportunities, a safe environment, schools that produce smart productive citizens and a well managed community.

Our first responders, firefighters and police, have had their numbers reduced, budgets cut and unpaid furloughs imposed. All this while crime rates increase and our jails are bulging at the seams.

The level of foreclosed homes is at a surreal high in the county. At this time there are more than 2,200 foreclosed homes in Newton County. That is not just a big number. It represents a large fraction of families in the county that have lost their homes and are struggling to get by.

Unemployment in Newton County is at a staggering 10.2 percent. One in every ten citizens is out of the workforce and can't find a job.

The Newton County School System has a pitiful current graduation rate of 64.14 percent.

These conditions in the county will never attract businesses and the above average paying jobs that follow and which we so desperately need to reverse the declining cycle. True, we managed to attract Baxter to our county, but we must also attract the employees to reside here. We are a highly mobile society and very often live away from our place of work and commute daily from our residence.

Elections are upon us and soon we'll be given the choices in electing our county, state and federal representatives. Look closely at the candidates and make it your duty to evaluate their positions and plans for improving conditions.

We must demand that our leaders cut spending and make the cost approval process painful. We must require fiscal responsibility. We need leaders who have the knowledge and courage to implement fundamental changes in our schools to improve student performance and manage with accountability. More spending and more administration will solve nothing.

Businesses with plans to expand or relocate will be looking for a community with safe streets, good schools and a stable economy. The mission of our leaders should be to create the environment, to attract and support private business, extract performance in education and manage our government for a safe community.

Make it your mission to know the people you're electing and what they plan to do and then demand performance and results.

William Perugino is active in local and regional politics and can be reached at