• 55°

Residents must stop drain

Like it or not, the U.S. Census Bureau has just stamped a nasty label right over our community’s name — failing.

It’s harsh, but numbers are notoriously without emotion.

And whether you believe the U.S. Census counts showing an approximately 4,000-person population drop are accurate or not, we are most likely stuck with the numbers for an entire decade until the census workers come knocking again in 2020.

Businesses, industry and families will look at the demographics when deciding whether or not they want to move to Adams County.

Fast food restaurants, retail shopping stores, grants and education dollars will likely pass us by.

Face it Natchez, we saw the writing on the wall 10 years ago when International Paper closed, but no one successfully did anything about it.

We’ve allowed 4,000 residents to leave in 10 years, and we’ve done little to attract any newcomers.

It’s downright depressing.

But it’s got to be a wake up call.

The first step will be analyzing the data we do have. And when I say “we,” I mean residents, not the elected officials who of whom seemed oblivious that data had even been released until this newspaper started calling them.

Residents need to understand what types of people left and why. To some degree, we know; those were our neighbors. But knowing the numbers, not just the faces, will help. Some data is available now at www.uscensus.gov. More data is coming later.

Then, the community must do a better job choosing and electing the leaders who ultimately must make the decisions that could turn our community around.

We can’t vote for candidates just because they are our friends or because he’s “a good guy.”

We must encourage the creative, out-of-the-box thinkers to run for office, promising to show support for their mature, professional behavior while informing politicians who shout, bicker or play childish political games that they are not welcome at our board table.

Then, we must see change in public office.

Area residents have to be more involved in government, not just watching the televised public meetings from the easy chair with popcorn in one hand and a smirk on their faces.

Residents who love Natchez and Adams County will have to make time to attend public meetings and forums and to tell their elected officials what they think.

And everyone will have to do everything with an open mind.

Growing a community by 4,000 people in 10 years just to merely break even won’t be easy.

We’ll need to do unique things in unique ways to buck the trend.

But most important, we’ll need to do it together — together as residents, not politicians.

Realize now that the population drop cannot be blamed on the people we elected, but on those who elected them.

The good news from the census? Adams County has 30,300 people who still live here.

Could most of those people have gone elsewhere? Sure.

But they didn’t, likely because something about Natchez pulls them in.

We have 30,300 brains to put to work so that 2020 isn’t as depressing as 2010.

But we can’t afford to waste time like we did in the last decade.

We must start now.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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