April 18, 2014 10:35:16 AM
A newcomer to Columbus might, after some observation, conclude that people here simply do not care about what is happening in our community.
Attendance at public forums such as city council and school board meetings is sparse. Individuals speaking on issues affecting our city in a public forum are even more rare.
We confess there are times when we are tempted to wonder if our voice, expressed on the editorial pages of The Dispatch, is alone, "crying in the wilderness."
And then, as members of The Dispatch editorial board and news staff venture out into the community -- either in our official capacity or in our daily routine -- we are routinely accosted by citizens. In these encounters, we hear a range of complaints, suggestions, criticisms and observations, which indicate that people in Columbus do care very deeply about the city and its future and have distinct ideas about what should or should not be done.
Often, they criticize our city leaders. Often, they criticize The Dispatch's stated opinion. We welcome both.
What we do fear is that most of those views from ordinary citizens never reach an audience that needs to hear the message most.
And we wonder what can be done to encourage people to make their voices heard beyond our chance meetings on a sidewalk or grocery store aisle.
As much as we enjoy engaging with Columbus residents in these casual encounters, we lament that more citizens do not state these views publicly in the forums that are available to them.
We have seen how the dynamic changes when citizens speak out publicly.
The Dispatch, The Packet and WCBI all allow users to comment on their websites; both newspapers run letters to the editor and select online comments in print; churches are great places to share ideas; perhaps the most powerful act is to speak in front of a public body. All local media allow some method of making anonymous comments. Though we believe that ability encourages dialogue, nothing is as effective as putting your name or your face behind what you are saying.
Make yourself heard.
We see our editorial pages as a public forum where residents can share their opinions along side our own. We want to hear your views, whether or not they align with our opinions.
The Dispatch does not want to be a solitary voice because it's very easy for officials to dismiss any lone voice, especially when it emanates from the media.
If you will not speak in public, speak directly to your mayor and councilman. Mayor Robert Smith 662-364-0433; Gene Taylor (Ward 1) 662-251-3841; Joseph Mickens (Ward 2) 662-251-0724; Charlie Box (Ward 3) 662-889-2165; Marty Turner (Ward 4) 662-251-5588; Kabir Karriem (Ward 5) 662-570-8108; Bill Gavin (Ward 6) 662-574-0295.
When citizens speak, officials are compelled to listen.
Our city leaders need to hear from you.
Whether they want to or not.