Last week’s letter overflowing with anti-city “had enough” remarks cried out for some response. The jumble of opinion and misinformation expressed by the writer allowed him to vent his frustrations, and hopefully helped him decompress. Reading it, though, made me think of the timeless proverb, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
First and foremost, I support the First Amendment and the writer’s freedom to vent. Sounding off is a cherished right and a common human trait. I, too, have been known to vent and have sometimes extended it into a full-sized rant. Blowing off verbal steam is often therapeutic and can on occasion help attract attention to a problem.
However, if the writer would be inclined to light a candle, the following information might be useful.
The city is audited each and every year under strict G.A.S.B. guidelines. That audit gets presented in an open commission meeting, discussed and made known to anyone interested. Both condensed audit versions (P.A.F.R.) and detailed comprehensive reports (C.A.F.R.) can be viewed on the City of Griffin website. The current 2012 and proposed 2013 budgets plus financial statements appear also on that public website for review. We are proud that for the past eight years, Griffin has been honored with the “Excellence in Financial Reporting” award for achieving the highest standards in government accounting and reporting.
Much of the writer’s verbal heartburn centered upon the city’s signage regulations and fees. He strongly believes they are much too punitive and expensive. In contrast, I have listened to equally vociferous vents stating we suffer from sign clutter and banner blight. These folks believe our sign rules are not restrictive enough and need strengthened. So, are our sign ordinances too restrictive or too lax? Are our zoning regulations too demandingly difficult or too loose? Is our traffic enforcement too tough or too slack? Are Griffin’s alcohol provisions too harsh or too relaxed? The frivolous answer to all these questions is probably “maybe” or maybe “probably”. Every viewpoint favors a different balance. Perfect answers don’t always exist. As commissioners, we ponder and debate these issues daily, sometimes adjusting policy to change the balance.
The writer might also try these avenues. Every commission meeting allows citizen comments. This affords the opportunity to complain, compliment, gripe, testify, request, petition, and speak out in general. As your elected officials, we listen and weigh what you say. The result can be a change in policy and ordinances. Feedback and public input help us continually re-evaluate whether the city is operating at its optimum.
The best candle and learning experience without a doubt features Griffin’s Citizen Government Academy offered each fall. For one night weekly over 10 weeks, the citizen “student” visits all major departments within city operations. Each night, one learns about that department’s managers, budget, function, goals, and role within the overall city team. This will answer all questions and fill in the knowledge blanks. Responses from previous classes have been overwhelmingly positive. Try it.
If, however, the “had enough” letter writer prefers cursing the darkness, that’s OK.
Freedom of speech defines America. We value that freedom. Publicly sounding off, though, represents that point when we all become aware of what you know. I like that.