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OPINION PAGE


GOOD FOR THE METHODISTS

By Carol Megathlin

Did you happen to see the New York Times on Wednesday, August 16th?  On page A7, the United Methodist Church had taken out a full-page ad.  In small white letters on a black background were the words from Romans 12:21.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

That was it.  This short exhortation from scripture stood in stark contrast to the multitude of stories about the clash in Charlottesville and the president’s controversial response to the violence.  The words brought a cool perspective to the heated strife.  Who among us would dispute the admonition? 

Struck by the timeliness of the message, I immediately sent out an email to friends with the subject “Good for the Methodists.”  One response I received read “how about good for all of us?” followed by a link to a National Public Radio story.  

The NPR story cited former President Obama’s tweet in response to Charlottesville.  Quoting Nelson Mandela, Obama wrote, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..."

Twitter stated that it was the “most-liked tweet ever.”

Being born without hate certainly warrants comment and notice.  But before we get too deep into self-congratulation, we would do well to take into account our being born with a tendency to err.  To do wrong.  Even to hate others based on skin color, culture and religion. 

But Obama’s statement, unlike that of the Methodist Church, offered no guidance for responding to evil.  What if the haters marching in Charlottesville had been met with a silent crowd bearing signs reading “Love One Another”?  

Violence most likely would not have erupted.  Perhaps someone among the marchers might have felt shame.  Maybe a few minds would have been changed. 

Earlier in Romans chapter 12, we are instructed to “bless those who persecute you.  Bless and curse not.”  Further on we are commanded to “repay no one evil for evil,” 

I admit, I must swallow hard when I read those words.  I can think of three people right now whom I find difficult to “bless.”  But if every individual made an effort to abide by these injunctions, would we resort so readily to beating each other in the streets?

To be sure, a “good” nation that suffers chronic evil from another must defend itself with violence in extreme instances.  But that opens up inquiries into the morality of actions in combat.  As the saying goes, that’s a whole ‘nother subject, and I am no philosopher.

It remains that the most potent reaction to hate is love.  It is also the most difficult and the most contrary to our human inclination.  I know this from experience.  Yet the fact that a praiseworthy attitude is challenging to cultivate, let alone execute, does not excuse us from striving toward it.

Obama’s Mandela tweet is incomplete. The quotation he cites continues with these words: People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”


Whether love comes more naturally or not, it renders such peace that it merits every ounce of selflessness it demands.  

“God is love,” and his people are called to offer that love to everyone.  Everyone.  After the Christian church has succored the poor and spread the gospel, it might do well to advertise its message.  Marketing influences behavior.  

Ask the Marlboro Man.  

So it bears repeating.  

Good for the Methodists. 

Carol Megathlin is a writer living in Fairhope, AL, and Savannah, GA






SYSTEM FAILS WITHOUT TRANSPARENCY

May 9, 2017


Our long-time followers know we have periodically criticized elected officials over the years at city and county levels for lack of transparency -- particularly regarding Alabama'a Open Meeting Act laws (aka "Sunshine Laws").

Discussions about any aspect of any matter that could come to a vote someday before a government body must be held in public and the meeting properly announced well beforehand; additionally, so-called "serial meetings" of smaller groups on the same subject are prohibited as well.

Unfortunately, that has not always been the case and the problem seems to worsen when politicians do not get along so well: often the intention is to conceal from one another, it seems.

Televising live and recording meetings may actually have made matters worse, driving the real deliberations even more out of sight.

Planning Commission
Not to be overlooked is the effect on government employees; it places them in impossible situations to "go along to get along" or report possible violations of state law when they see them.

Candidates during elections often promise transparency, but fall short afterward: The Times calls upon all city and county leaders to fulfill campaign promises of transparency in government by following state 'Sunshine Laws' to the letter (click); our democratic system fails without it and special interests seize control.









BRING BACK THE FINANCIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE

April, 2017

We are asked a lot lately about the contentious situation at city hall between mayor and city council and what's to be done about it; the situation is similar in some ways to 2008 when three new council members were elected -- but today we have a new mayor too which complicates matters significantly.

Would it be wise for the Board of Directors of a $60 million corporation to hire a CEO without suitable experience to run their company?

The answer of course is a resounding no -- stockholders would have none of it; but when it comes to city governments in Alabama, technically only a type of corporation as well, anyone may run for office and be elected regardless of background.

That is what happened last August when longshot, bookstore owner Karin Wilson, with no government experience at all, ran for mayor of Fairhope and actually won!; the same may be said for three novice council members.

The usual path to the top where experience is gained by years on the council or working within the city was discarded, for better or worse, by the voters -- and now we are all left to deal with the aftermath and quite frankly it has not been a pretty sight!.

Professional management of finances is essential to government and this is no time for amateur hour or on-the-job training -- so the Times' editorial staff highly recommends appointing  new members to the city's Financial Advisory Committee, to assist the mayor and council with preparing yearly budgets.

The last FAC was appointed by the council in 2008 because they were dis-satisfied with former mayor Kant -- and met regularly for four years with city managers to navigate successfully through the Great Recession without having to lay off employees or cut services, unlike many other city's at that time.

They took the city from deficit spending to surpluses as well, no small fete; a Times reporter sat with them through many long hours of public meetings during the process, another plus for added transparency.

We know some of the committee's former members are still around, but there are numerous highly qualified retired CEOs, CPA's and others out in the community who would probably jump at the chance to volunteer to serve their community again, lend a hand  in times of trouble at city hall as others before them did in 2009.

Last time mayor Kant selected some of the members, and the council the rest; this should not been seen as a slight to the newly-elected -- but the prudent thing to do on behalf of citizens during unusual circumstances.










CITY NEEDS A STRATEGIC PLAN

February 2017

The mayor has just presented her budget proposal for 2017, belatedly,  and the city council is currently reviewing it; but citizens may be alarmed to learn there is still no strategic plan for needed big-ticket capital projects.

What is the number one priority for spending? Is it addressing chronic drainage and erosion issues all over town?  Traffic congestion?  Utility upgrades? More recreation? Sidewalks? Schools? A Performing Arts Center? New city hall?

Right now we do not know, whatever is most politically popular gets the attention and tax dollars: often wants take precedence over needs.

A plan to fix the most-congested intersections in town for what seemed to be a bargain price of about $5 million is gathering dust on a shelf in city hall, for instance. (click)

There is a Strategic Planning Committee to figure it all out but that has not met for over four years; and an effort to come up with one as part of the Alabama Communities of Excellence program went down in flames in an almost laughable manner about two years ago when the city received the ACE certification, but curiously without ever producing a plan!

The new mayor and council have been on the job for almost six months now with not much to show for it: the people of Fairhope deserve better.

They need to put the horse before the cart for a change and address general needs, not just those of the many special interest groups out there: that is a prescription for chaos.

A long-range strategic plan for capital spending priorities is necessary, before any more budgets are approved.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Publisher posted an opinion piece that the city should have a strategic plan before approving any budget. On the Opinion page there is not a place to enter comments. In 2009, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee wrote a report to the then City Council with the results of steps 1-3 in the strategic planning process. Step four was for the then Mayor, City Administrator and Department Heads to use the information and critical issues identified to formulate the strategic plan with actions and goals. The committee had finished the work the council had requested. This report is posted on the city website under ordinances/forms.

Many of the critical issues identified then remain, e.g., physical infrastructure and personnel. Some of the issues identified have been addressed. The mayor and council could start with a review of this document and then update it and have the mayor and department heads come up with the final plan as intended with actions and goals. Then use the document in planning out the capital improvements in this year's fiscal budget and succeeding fiscal years budgets.

Publisher said...

We provided copies of the 2009 five-year plan you mentioned to the newly-elected city council in 2013 and the Strategic Planning Committee did meet, but only once or twice.

Another SP was to be updated/completed as a part of the Alabama Communities of Excellence certification also begun that year, but that was never completed -- for still-unknown reasons, as we mentioned in our comments above.

Anonymous said...

The document I referenced is a memorandum to the City Council; not a five year strategic plan. Still I believe it should be reviewed and used as a basis for going forward and developing a five year strategic plan.

Is the five-year strategic plan you reference on the city website?

Anonymous said...

Fly. Creek will be a large part of the strategic plan. We will be dredging it non stop with the new apartments coming on line. The council seems very concerned about being fair to the developer. What about the people living near this complex?' Frankly we need to do several things going forwards:
1 substantially raise development impact fees
2 insure that stormwater standards are extremely high. The flooding around town tells me that the old standards were insufficient
3 rethink in future elections whether it is wise to have a builder and a paving contractor on city council. How would you expect them to vote ?
4 there are residents who are capable, retired attorneys and negotiators. See if some of them will help with some of the messes we are in.
5 I think some of the new planning hires(not the director) will be excess in a year or two. The development director seems capable but how can she increase development enough to justify her pay ?
6 we need to consider funding all of the capital projects, mostly utility upgrades, in one fell swoop it might avoid some major problems

Anonymous said...

I also am very concerned that the current city council, with the exception of Jimmy Conyers, is much more concerned with remaining in the good graces of developers and builders and is totally unburdened by concerns for the well being of Fairhope. Boone, Burrell & Brown (sadly, he has proven himself to be spineless in standing up to his bros) will happily destroy Fairhope just to get revenge against Karin Wilson for winning election.

Anonymous said...

I agree with other anonymous. I was surprised the vote was 4-1, I had expected 3-2 since Burrell voted against FC the first time and I felt Robimson was on the fence. Conyers had made it clear he was going with what the majority of citizens wanted. I guess that is a novel approach around here nowadays..

I have hopes that Mr Corte will still reconsider. He is wealthy and could donate the land or downsize his development.

Anonymous said...

Going with what the majority of citizens want is a prescription for disaster. It is the mob rule the country's founders worried so about. That is why they made a Republic instead, where wiser leaders make the decisions for the ignorant masses.

Anonymous said...

Best comment on this page in a long time!

Anonymous said...

Even leading citizens have no respect for the rule of law here. :(

Anonymous said...

Help make our city government great again as an example we all can be proud of instead of a continuing embarrassment.