Meetings are too vital to miss

Published 5:55pm Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Each month, the staff of the Times-Journal attends several public meetings. As the title suggests, these meetings are free and open to the public.

During these meetings, elected officials make decision on how to spend taxpayer money and make decisions that impact our everyday lives.

The city council is one example of the many public meetings that we attend. On most meeting days, the room is virtually empty, with the exception of a reporter, the mayor and a few other city employees. Large groups visit occasionally during awards ceremonies, but seldom do average, concerned citizens come to meetings.

Maybe I’m the only one, but I think it’s important to make sure public officials are making the right choices.

It is concerning on one hand because the city council may make a decision that residents don’t agree with. Unfortunately, no one would be in attendance to know.

On the other hand, Selma residents aren’t nearly as informed as they could be.

A few weeks ago, black smoke rose from Marie Foster Street. Some residents may have been left wondering why. Those who regularly attend council meetings wouldn’t have needed to guess. Council members repeatedly talked about how exciting it was to get rid of a crumbling eyesore — the Stewart-King-Mckenzie Building.

If knowing what’s going on in the community isn’t enough to convince you, consider how much money public officials have power over.

The city council approved a $16.45 million city budget earlier this year for fiscal year 2014. The Selma City School System’s budget for the upcoming year is $35.3 million. The county commission’s budget for fiscal year 2014 is $22.8 million and the county school system’s budget is $39 million.

Are Selma and Dallas County residents content to elect strangers, who for a few months act like the most agreeable people in the world to garner votes? Do you really know the people you elected? More importantly, do you know how they are spending your hard-earned money?

The city council’s choices can have an impact on many other areas of daily life in Selma. For example, if the council allocates too much money to the public works department, it’s possible the police department could suffer financially. If the police department can’t operate at full speed, more crimes may go unchecked.

What happens in the council chambers doesn’t stay in city hall. The decisions reverberate throughout Selma.

The council is currently considering implementing businesses licenses on vendors at events like Riverfront Market Day.

Though it’s our job at the newspaper to cover these meetings and share with our readers the vital details of what happened, there really is no better alternative than hearing it straight from the decision markers’ mouths.

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