Town hall meeting constructivePublished 8:49pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013
When I returned to the newsroom following Tuesday’s town hall meeting, my co-workers looked at me with concern.
“How was it,” they asked, expecting me to curl up in the fetal position as I do after many council meetings and work sessions. I usually return brain-fried and mentally drained because of the length of the meetings and some of the blood-boiling topics that are discussed.
But Tuesday was different. As the newsroom stared at me, hoping to hear a story of how awful the town hall meeting was — I could only tell them it was productive and brutally honest in the best way possible.
More than 25 residents stepped up the microphone inside the convention center to look the city council in the eye and tell them what their greatest concerns were.
I have to say, while I expected many of the comments to be ungrateful and somewhat ignorant — most of them had me saying, “Amen!”
My blood pressure didn’t sky rocket and I wasn’t hunched over in my seat. I sat up, smiled and laughed and giggled with those sitting around me as some of the comments directed toward the council were funny (one man suggested anarchy and not electing any public officials ever again.)
Nancy Bennett, local realtor, got up to speak and had the crowd cheering. She told the council they were responsible for any situation with Advanced Disposal — the new garbage company solely contracted to collect waste. Bennett said the company was not collecting for many of her tenants that had paid. I almost jumped up when Bennett told the council she disagreed with those who blame code enforcement issues on “a cultural problem.” She is correct in that these code enforcement issues are not a cultural problem with one race or one part of the city — they are in every single ward and affect every resident in Selma negatively.
I did not leave defeated because, even though people only spoke about the problems in the city, they were things everyone agreed upon.
The feeling of defeat after a Selma meeting comes from when division seems inevitable. It is that same feeling of defeat I hear people’s voices when they speak of Selma negatively — like there will never be a day when big problems are resolved.
But grass cutting and waste collection, I think those problems can be solved without the council having to divide itself and make political statements.
Sending workers out in stronger force to write code citations and mow some grass does not seem difficult. It is far more difficult to get people in the city to come together and agree on something and this is something simple everyone can get behind.