Ben and Millie Beall, Paul Fisher, Bob Maddox, Bill Martin, Ed McArthur, Kevin Bennett, Arianthe Stettner, Nancy Stahoviak, Bud Romberg, Kathy Connell and Ken Brenner. What do these names have in common? They have all served countless hours in meetings at the county, city or school board levels, or perhaps in committees helping out our community in countless ways. If you know the individuals named above, they represent a broad spectrum of political philosophy, but each holds dearly the concept we recognize as "community."
This sense of community is becoming increasingly threatened as we continue actions of bickering, screaming, pointing fingers and going to public meeting to harangue our elected officials. Or we go to "Sound Off," as if signing our name to what we believe in is too hard a concept to consider. The result is what we now have -- an increasingly polarized community, us against them, and we all lose. Ever wonder why the bigoted hate graffiti is appearing in the high school? Our kids are becoming us, the politics of hate.
Despite numerous controversies within the city and School Board realm, two City Council elections and one School Board election were uncontested this past fall. Voter turnout on Nov. 4 was roughly one-third.
So now our elected officials represent what one-third of the people believe. The other two-thirds must be happier showing up at meetings and yelling at their elected officials, many of whom ran unopposed. This must be easier than taking the time to either vote or, heaven forbid, volunteer.
Folks, this is a horrible way to run any community, let alone one that only a few years ago was considered one of the best small towns in the United States to live in. Typically, what governs in these situations are the "naysayers" -- those with the loudest, harshest voices, not necessarily a consensus that creates a true sense of community.
Last month, 80 residents showed up in a mob-type atmosphere to voice their support for football coach Mark Drake. This month, the Fund Board will advertise -- for the third time -- two openings on the Technology Commission, which recommends funding of the half-cent sales tax to the Fund Board. This is democratic government at its most fundamental level, but you must be willing to listen to people and make your voice heard in a reasonable manner. It will require several hours of your time a month. But you will make a difference. If this is not your cup of tea, try either the city or county planning commissions or boards of adjustments. Work toward solutions. Listen to the other side.
If any of you think this is too tough a task to take on, consider the fact that our young men and women are dying daily in Iraq and around the world to defend our right to govern ourselves in this manner. This does not mean I personally support President Bush, but it is obvious that generations of Americans made sacrifices so that we could enjoy these freedoms.
It is a small price to pay for us to volunteer our time to make our community better. Call the school at 879-1530, city at 879-2060, county planning at 879-2704 or find a cause that grabs your heart. But leave the bickering and hate at home. Or we may all wake up in the not too distant future and wonder how we lost something that was so precious --the sense of community that brought us all here in the first place.