As the Board of Commissioners lurched to an 11:30 p.m. adjournment Tuesday, most of the audience had left. Those remaining had sat incredulous during an over two-hour executive session in the middle of the agenda. Planned, some ask? Don’t know. Avoidable? Yes. It was another self-generated crisis decision that had been tabled since March.
At the end of BOC meetings, whether that be at 9 p.m. or midnight, citizens are allowed to make comments. I had written mine out and have abbreviated them here: “We who are involved observers and active in communicating and researching the issues feel a weariness but not a weakening in our resolve to see Newton County become better than it is. I don’t believe there has ever been a time when there is so much despair over our county government as now. Something is broken. People in the highest rungs of power in this state and people all over the state know this about Newton County. We have become a laughingstock.
“Where,” I asked, “is the response and reaction to a dismal report from the Corps of Engineers about the status of a 404 permit after something like 20 years of effort to build a reservoir and over $21 million spent?
“Why do you think our only option to resolving long-simmering issues about our solid waste system is to accept a contract from a recently contrived company whose proposal was hatched in meetings with the county attorney and some of you commissioners?
“Where is the outrage over the fact that we in Newton County — not necessarily a prosperous community — are paying the highest fees in the state for legal services?
“Why are we spending money year after year from the General Fund that is not being replaced by a viable and growing tax base and strong support for economic development that brings new taxpaying entities into the digest?
“Lady and Gentlemen, I despair but we do not and will not weaken or go away until you stand up and do the jobs you are supposed to do on our behalf.
“However, let me add: We have been heartened of late by comments and questions from some of you that challenge the status quo, that express a desire that things be done differently.”
I wanted to offer more encouragement, but the chair gaveled my three minutes to an end. So let me say what I didn’t get to say then: In both public and private exchanges, some commissioners give me reason to believe they are listening, they are getting our message, they are beginning, perhaps slightly, to see issues differently from the way they have been led to see them within the long standing culture.
We the people need to encourage them in this regard, to appeal to their better natures, to ask and expect them to do what is right by us and by this county. I want one day to look at the Board of Commissioners and feel pride that they have cast aside personal agendas and are united in doing the necessary and right work of government with transparency and accountability, with a forward looking vision, in open partnership with citizens ready to support responsive leadership. I pray that day is not far away.