We need to avoid CAVE mentality

Published 12:01 am Sunday, July 15, 2018

Our community is heralded across the world for its beauty and history. But if you live here a while, you can quickly realize one of our area’s greatest opportunities is in changing the minds of its CAVE people.

You’ve probably heard of these folks. You may be one.

CAVE people are Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

We see them all over, and unfortunately they hold back our community.

A recent letter to the editor to this newspaper underscored this problem. The letter writer pointed out how a small group of citizens who threatened to raise a ruckus just cost the City of Natchez nearly $500,000 over the next five years.

Residents who live near the former Titan Tire plant — a behemoth of a building, parts of which are filled with asbestos — opposed the city’s plans to lease the property to the new garbage collection company.

The lease would have provided a nearly $500,000 positive swing in the city’s finances through both savings on the city’s need to provide security to the property as well as the monthly lease money.

“Not in my backyard,” they said and the deal vanished. The move was pretty amazing given that the tire plant is a hulk of a building, slap in the middle of a residential neighborhood and has been there for decades and decades. What’s worse is how fast the city seemed to let the deal vanish without much of a fight.

CAVE people can — and do — also hold elected positions, often elected by other, like-minded people.

As the City of Natchez and Adams County begins to work on their respective budget plans for the next fiscal year, how the CAVE people hold our community back is also exposed, with a bit of careful examination.

Consider the city and county governments. They largely do exactly the same things. The rules regarding each are slightly different, and the income streams and expenditures vary a bit.

But by and large, each entity serves citizens by providing law enforcement, fire protection and other quality of life matters that are quite simply best handled by a group with broad public interest and involvement.

But the overlaps of city and county government abound.

Each operates two distinct law enforcement agencies, two public works or road crew agencies.

Local governments operate multiple automotive and machinery repair operations.

The city and county have two sets of payroll processing, accounts payable, accounts receivable and more.

Although the city and county begrudgingly work together on a community fire agreement in which the county pays the city to have city fire crews respond to county fires, that agreement seems destined to go away soon.

The county has already begun seeking locations for building its own fire stations to help lower insurance premiums on county residents.

So why don’t we work together more as a community?

Why don’t we consolidate city and county services more and use the savings to improve our community’s infrastructure, quality of life or debt burdens?

It’s simple.

We have too many CAVE voices controlling the discussion and, unfortunately, too many CAVE minds in positions of power.

The author of last week’s letter to the editor gave me hope, however.

If enough people like him get frustrated with the status quo and say “enough” perhaps change can occur.

When those more progressive-minded citizens begin running for office and representing a common sense approach to our community, perhaps improvements will come even faster.

And when that happens, Natchez will flourish and become known as a place open, ready and willing for business investment, led by citizens who will work hard to support things that help the community as a whole, not merely their own self-interests.

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