Don’t let the peo­ple per­ish

The Covington News - - Front page -

“Where there is no vi­sion, the peo­ple per­ish.” Thus says Proverbs. And I’m feel­ing it some­times these days as an ob­server of lo­cal pol­i­tics.

Roy Varner just died, beloved as a man and revered as Newton County Com­mis­sion chair for 16 years. A friend said of him: “It seems like most politi­cians to­day, their agenda is a per­sonal agenda, and what they can get out of it for them­selves. Roy was a per­son try­ing to do good for his com­mu­nity. He didn’t care who got credit so long as it got done.” Son Aaron quoted him: “He said, ‘Pos­i­tive at­ti­tude is what gets things done. Neg­a­tive at­ti­tude never did build any­thing.’ And: ‘If it’s the right thing to do, there will be enough credit to go around.’ Also: ‘A lot of things we do to­day won’t ben­e­fit us now, but they will years later.’”

Mr. Roy had a vi­sion, among many oth­ers, of a se­cure wa­ter source for this com­mu­nity, and it lead to the con­struc­tion of what would be called Lake Varner — in his honor. It was not with­out con­tro­versy when he out­lined the goal, but his com­mit­ment to con­sen­sus build­ing made it a re­al­ity. Grand­daugh­ter Tues­day Rawls said, “For him it was about be­ing part of some­thing greater than he was.”

Right now I’m wan­der­ing in the wilder­ness, look­ing for the vi­sion that’s go­ing to carry us for­ward to­ward a col­lec­tively pros­per­ous and healthy fu­ture in this county. I be­lieve there can be this kind of fu­ture de­spite the on­go­ing malaise and gen­er­ally pes­simistic view of our cur­rent times. We will have to re­con­struct our econ­omy to pro­duce a dif­fer­ent source of jobs, but we’ve done it be­fore and can do it again. What we lack ap­pears to be elected of­fi­cials who will clearly ar­tic­u­late a vi­sion with a call to ac­tion that will rally even the most jaded among us.

The ills that be­fell this county were from a steady and over re­liance on the con­struc­tion in­dus­try and money for home­buy­ers that was too easy to get, money that would never be re­paid be­cause there was no in­come to be­gin with to sup­port the pay­ments. And then the jobs just went away. A lot of greed on many lev­els brought this county and this coun­try to their knees.

These days, I’m look­ing for some­one to ar­tic­u­late a plan, even a dream of what we could be that we are not now. Do we all agree that we want an at­trac­tive and se­cure place to live, work and rear fam­i­lies? It is hard to dis­agree that we need en­ter­tain­ment and recre­ational venues, pro­tec­tion and cre­ation of green space that helps to pre­serve our his­tor­i­cal ru­ral char­ac­ter, bet­ter schools, more re­tail and res­tau­rant op­tions, an econ­omy that re­lies less on con­struc­tion and more on job sec­tors the fu­ture will need, in­clud­ing lo­cal food pro­duc­tion. We, the peo­ple, need a vi­sion most par­tic­u­larly in times like these. Oth­er­wise, we will “per­ish,” not in a lit­eral sense, but in soul-sap­ping slow de­cline and death to hope. All I usu­ally hear is si­lence from many of our elected of­fi­cials when it comes to the “vi­sion thing.”

A roadmap does ex­ist cre­ated by the hard work of the Lead­er­ship Col­lab­o­ra­tive made up of elected of­fi­cials and govern­ment depart­ment heads. Un­der the aus­pices of The Cen­ter for Com­mu­nity Preser­va­tion and Plan­ning, they’ve pro­duced some­thing called a 2050 Build Out Plan to show us what we can be by the year 2050. It’s put Newton County on the map. Other cities, town and states come to learn about the process. We have a roadmap, but do we have a vi­sion and com­mit­ment from our elected of­fi­cials that will get us there? Where is the lead­er­ship?

What I see too of­ten these days at bi-monthly govern­ment meet­ings are many votes and de­ci­sions be­ing made for the most per­sonal, petty and par­ti­san rea­sons. Dogma rules. “Just say no” be­comes po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. Per­son­al­ity con­flicts drive votes away from pro­gres­sive op­tions or peace­ful res­o­lu­tions of is­sues. Too of­ten ac­tions de­bated play to peo­ples’ fear and not a shared sense of com­mu­nity and hope. It is fear that will prob­a­bly keep our com­mis­sion­ers from vot­ing sen­si­bly for the roll­back mill­age rate that would keep our courts and law en­force­ment func­tion­ing ad­e­quately. And it doesn’t take 20-20 eye­sight to see those of­fice­hold­ers who are us­ing their po­si­tions to build a ré­sumé for run­ning against some­one else sit­ting at the same curved dais.

Come on, that’s not what we elected you for. We want you to be look­ing af­ter us and our com­mu­nity, not your po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

My rant doesn’t ap­ply to all of our pol­i­cy­mak­ers, by any means, but it does ap­ply to some — those who make the most noise. Pol­i­tics at the na­tional and state level make me just as petu­lant.

I sup­pose I shouldn’t ex­pect more than from the ex­ist­ing “sys­tem” than I’m get­ting. But I do want more, and I want it right here where we pass those we we’ve elected on the side­walks or in the gro­cery aisles or at church. You know who you are. Your con­stituents want vi­sion, not per­son­al­ity pol­i­tics. Oth­er­wise, the peo­ple will per­ish.

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