This feels like a huge week for local government in our community, as well as our citizenry.
Decisions were made, decisions were unable to be made, budgets were passed and taxes were raised by our governments. Different groups in our community showed they were informed, uninformed, supportive and willing to learn or frustrated and willing to complain.
Monday night, less than a dozen people were at the Newton County Historic Courthouse as their elected officials decided on a tax increase, ending months of work in trying to figure out how to keep the county government running without the help of a loan.
The very next night hundreds of people showed up to celebrate a decision that was more than five years in the making, in the county’s newly approved Agricultural Center. Hundreds also attended that same meeting over a decision that hasn’t officially been made, concerning the county’s convenience centers. Thursday night people showed they were wanting to learn, attending the county’s Solid Waste Authority meeting, and others showed up at the City of Covington’s first Civics 101 Class to learn how local government works.
On Monday, the Covington City Council discussed an item that was to be voted on but never made it to the council chamber, frustrating at least one city council member. Councilman Hawnethia Williams was concerned that a gazebo on the Covington Square, which would have been paid for by Newton Federal Bank, never made it in front elected officials for a vote.
These are big decisions. Sure, those decisions won’t be mentioned on CNN, because it’s not about an international conflict, a trillion dollar budget, universal healthcare or what Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump did or didn’t do to offend people. They were decisions on where YOU have to throw out your trash; where YOUR money is being spent; where an agribusiness facility in YOUR community will be located; and whether or not YOU have a new structure in YOUR town Square.
Whether you agree or not concerning the decisions made this week is your business. Highlighting the importance of those decisions, and decisions like those that are made every day in this community, is the business of community journalism.
Of course we can’t point out the importance of decisions and their impact on Newton County without talking about people.
And some of those people made themselves heard this week.
In the case of the people from the FFA and 4H who attended Tuesday’s board of commissioners meeting, they were celebratory and delighted. A new agriculture center was approved, paid for by SPLOST and state money, to be constructed at the FFA/FCCLA Center.
Not only were those people present when the decision to go ahead with the project was made, but they were also in attendance by the hundreds a week before during an informational public hearing on the topic.
While the FFA folks rejoiced, hundreds who were in attendance did not. They were there to express their displeasure with the board of commissioners and the board of directors of the Solid Waste Authority. They did so during a public hearing concerning an agreement between those two bodies.
The problem was that their concerns had little to do with the hearing or the agreement. The Solid Waste Authority has been a year in the making and started its work in April. Many people at Tuesday’s meeting said they knew nothing about it. Fees for the county’s convenience centers have not only been discussed for months but were actually written into the county’s budget — last year; and people said they knew nothing about it.
This week in county government should be a wake-up call to all citizens to be informed. Since most of the concerned and uninformed citizens said they didn’t read their local newspaper, we urge you to urge a neighbor or a friend to learn about their county, read the newspaper, in print or online, visit the websites of their local government, talk about their neighborhood with their neighbors.
A non-informed citizenry leads only to more problems for our community. And as many people laid out for our elected officials this week, this county already has its problems.
We applaud those people that showed up to Thursday’s SWA meeting to hear more about what is being done, those that attended a civics class that same night, those that showed up at the Agriculture Center’s public hearing the week before and those that voted in our primary runoff on July 26. Those are the people that are informed.
Those are the people who will move this county forward.