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Some leaders could use a fresh coat

Julie and I bought a house a while back and are in the process of doing some renovations to give the house a fresher, more modern look.

Some of the work — the stuff that requires professional skill — is being farmed out to a group of professionals who work for Huber Construction Company.

They make things that most of us would find difficult look pretty easy. Watching a professional work is interesting as they work with speed and confidence that only a great deal of experience brings.

But some of the smaller stuff I’ve been working on myself. Mostly my contributions have been small repairs and lots of painting.

It almost feels as if I have a second job, moonlighting as a painter, some days.

It’s sort of amazing how much a room can be transformed after a coat of paint, but it’s also important that the person holding the paintbrush or roller takes the time to work slowly and cleanly.

Although occasionally I wake up the next day having “found” a new set of sore muscles that I didn’t know I owned, it’s most been fun and educational.

But more than any newly acquired painting skills I may have developed, something more interesting has occurred.

Painting at night in an empty house gives a person a good bit of time to think and sometimes, it seems, few of us find a quiet spot and just think for a while.

It’s interesting, almost therapeutic in some ways, so much so that it occurs to me that it would be a good idea for some of our local leaders to do a little painting and learn a few lessons.

Those lessons might include the following:

•This may seem silly, but it’s important to understand what paint can and cannot do for a room. Essentially, what’s the plan? If you seek to have straight, smooth walls, paint isn’t the first step in the process.

Things have to be cleaned and prepped first. Don’t we often see the opposite of that sometimes with our elected leaders?

Nothing is prepped or discussed with the public ahead of decision-making time. In some cities, any new laws must be read aloud at three consecutive meetings before the governing board can vote on it. That seems like a pretty logical way to forcing issues to be “prepped” publicly.

•Work slowly and you’re less likely to make a mess. How many times have we seen local government leaders rushing through things so fast that they miss the details and we all find out later just how costly the mistake was. Remember a few years back when the City of Natchez did a bunch of paving, including resurfacing Homochitto Street, but failed to make sure the grant money they thought they had was actually in the bank? “Paint” went everywhere, and taxpayers had to work cleanup.

•Make sure everyone is on the same page about what color paint is going to be used and where. Last week, Natchez aldermen and the mayor disagreed about a similar issue — how the city should use lease money from the new casino. Mayor Butch Brown wanted the wall to be painted blue, while aldermen opted for a more conservative red tone. That dispute is funny in a way because the mayor isn’t supposed to decide how to spend money. It’s like the plumber walking in and telling the painter how to apply paint. It’s just not his job, no matter how much he may say it is.

Aldermen are to create laws and appropriate funds. The mayor is the executive branch, whose paint budget is decided by the six aldermen.

Of course all of the above ideas could just be the result of too many paint fumes. What do you think about the issues at hand?


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.