March 6, 2018 11:18:46 AM
The Lowndes County Community Foundation held its first public forum at the Trotter Center Monday where community leaders and citizens discussed a range of issues facing the county in a meeting that lasted about two and a half hours.
Informed at the beginning of the forum with the demographics and data that helped provide a sense of where the county is now and where it is headed, the attendees broke into a half-dozen smaller groups to discuss the issues made evident by the data.
Monday's meeting did not solve the county's problems. It identified them.
It did not answer the question, "Why doesn't somebody do something?" It presented the question, "What can we do?"
It did not create a vision for our community. It established that there is a need for such a vision.
It was not an end. It was a beginning.
This isn't the first time we've tried to identify our community's issues.
In the past 12 years we've had at least three reports on ways to improve our city.
In 2006 there was the Kocy report, which identified issues and solutions to foster growth. Three years later, Main Street hosted a well-planned, well-executed charrette that identified the biggest issues facing our community. Locating the soccer complex at Burns Bottom and some city branding we now use were two of the ideas that came out of that series of meetings. The city completed a comprehensive plan in 2013 but not much has been said publicly about it since.
Identifying our issues is easy. Creating a plan to address those issues and executing that plan is the more difficult step.
We urge the Community Foundation to include in their forthcoming report a plan for ways our community can address those problems. Other Mississippi communities have capitalized on these type meetings by forming action groups to identify solutions and to see them through.
Our citizens are ready to address our issues.
A diverse crowd of about 200 people gathered to share their concerns -- and praise -- for Lowndes County and Columbus.
Elected officials attended, but so did regular citizens. White residents turned out, as did black residents. There were professionals and blue-collar workers, the wealthy and the poor, the young and the old.
Of all of the things that may have been accomplished Monday, bringing the diversity of our community together may prove to be the most important of all.
Amid such diversity the big issues that affect us all were magnified.
By a substantial margin, the groups identified improving education as the major issue facing our community. Other issues included community engagement, poverty, leadership and crime.
None of these are surprising.
The real test will be what happens next.
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