Can’t we all just work together?

Published 12:34 am Sunday, January 13, 2019

When Adams County voters head to the polls in November it will have been 10 years since voters were asked to support improving recreational facilities in the area.

The move in 2009 to place a non-binding referendum — effectively a ballot-based straw poll — was brilliant. It was a simple way to take the pulse of the community.

The results were pretty astounding at the time. Approximately three-quarters of voters said they supported the City of Natchez and Adams County to work together to create a recreation complex.

In the 10 years since, our city and county leaders have squandered away chances to fulfill that voter request. After another decade, the only tangible result out of the referendum is that a jointly funded swimming pool has been built.

The rest of the community’s recreation facilities remain mostly outdated, subpar and often in a state of disrepair.

That still baffles me.

Had the City of Natchez chosen to simply dedicate all the proceeds from the casino lease payment it receives from Magnolia Bluffs Casino to recreation, a state-of-the-art facility could have been built by now — without long-term financing.

One of the problems, it seems, in city and county government is a lack of cohesive vision.

Their occasional childish squabbles aside, wouldn’t it be great if city and county leaders could sit down once a year and collectively discuss a plan for growth in the coming year?

Creation of a common goal — something that could be moved forward within a year — shouldn’t be that difficult to accomplish.

Yet when you ask city and county leaders what they seek for the year ahead it’s mostly frighteningly similarly to what they would have said 10 years ago.

Although the process may be a wasted effort if the elected officials simply ignore it, imagine how much good could come from simply polling voters each year to have them help set the priority for the next 12 months.

Such a “poll” could offer four or five priorities from the community and the top votegetter would earn the full support of everyone sworn into office to serve and support the will of the people.

Imagine how this year’s poll priorities might shape up:

*Building or revamping recreational facilities.

*Improving and consolidating fire protection.

*Improving and consolidating law enforcement.

*Reducing government overhead.

*Putting public properties back on the tax rolls.

*Improving county infrastructure.

To me the simplest to work is fire and law enforcement.

Having a common, countywide public safety net just makes sense. It would eliminate any hand offs of duty from one agency to another and reduce overhead.

Both of those efforts may actually save public money, which in turn could be used to help fund the costs of rebuilding a recreation or improving infrastructure needs.

It certainly seems that if the majority of the community could rally behind getting one project done each year, some significant progress could be made in virtually no time.

If we could do that — consistently — for a few years, we all might be surprised at how much money is save, how many services are improved and how much better our community becomes.

And we won’t find ourselves 10 years from now still facing the same problems and having no real tractions on a solution.

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