It’s time for the public to stand up, say something

Published 5:21 pm Thursday, September 12, 2019

During the Monday, Sept. 2, meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, there was time set aside at the beginning of the meeting for public comments and questions regarding the county’s upcoming 2020 budget.

No one stood up. No questions were asked. No comments were made.

Similarly, during the Thursday, Sept. 5, public hearing scheduled by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for residents to review and question the city’s upcoming 2020 budget, no questions were asked or comments made. It was quiet.

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Each governmental body spends months preparing the budget for the next year. Elected officials review expenses from the prior year, meet with department and division heads, go over needed projects and get reports on what the expected tax revenues for the upcoming year might be.

They hold meetings to discuss ways to better spend money provided by taxpayers, and look for ways to move the city and the county forward, while at the same time trying to be frugal with those precious dollars.

Throughout the year, residents and groups come forward to ask for money. They ask for money to be spent on roads they drive on or in their neighborhood, but when it comes to a moment the public is invited to review, invited to make a comment, they are a no show. They are quiet.

How can residents complain about the way elected leaders spend taxpayer dollars, but stand quiet when given the chance to speak?

Maybe they saved their best questions and comments for social media.

It could also mean that both the Board of Supervisors and Board of Mayor and Aldermen did perfect jobs in shaping their budgets and there were no questions to be asked or comments to be made. Maybe.

The public must take an active role in government for it to be effective. This goes for participating in public hearings, attending public meetings and voting when called to do so.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the city of Vicksburg has organized another public hearing, this time to discuss public safety issues in the city.

Residents will be given the opportunity to be part of the process and ask questions directly to the city officials, in this case, those who are charged with the public’s safety. This is a chance not always available to the public.

Who will show up? Who will put aside their phone and keyboard and snarky comments, to stand up in person to ask questions, make a statement and help make our community better?

Residents of Vicksburg and Warren County have been given plenty of chances for input, but have, in the past, remained silent. It will be a shame if that continues.