You live by the grocery store and you die by the grocery store; isn’t that how the saying goes?
New city leaders were voted into office last year because of a level of mistrust the public had with the Williams Foods tax incentive plan. Part of that mistrust came from misinformation but these candidates ran on a platform of being against the deal as it stood and voters said they agreed.
However, it was the classic political blunder for those elected to the council of taking the issue you were elected into office on and not knowing when to let it go. A year later the council was still playing games when it came to the grocery store contract and the same voters were now tired of the issue and ready to put it behind them.
I’ve written before that I don’t mind the council delaying the grocery store incentive deal. It’s what they campaigned on and voters gave them a mandate to at least explore the issue further. But after a while it became clear that at the very least the council was incapable of working with one of the city’s largest business leaders, and at worst was using the issue as a political pawn.
Continuing to make Williams Foods a political issue backfired and a year after a wave of change hit city hall another shift in the political current is taking place.
While the line used to open this column is not really a common phrase used in politics, here is one that is:
“If you are not growing, you’re dying.”
To me that line pretty much sums up a simple truth in almost every area of life, whether it be business, relationships, and yes, even politics and city government.
People want to move forward because we understand that remaining in the status quo is never really a good option. Yes, we all are challenged with change to some degree and there are times in our lives when keeping things exactly the way they are sounds good. But the truth is change is one of the only constants in life and we are either changing for the better or for the worse.
Last year members of the council campaigned on the idea that the changes taking place in Piedmont were for the worse and the direction of the city needed to be changed. There has been some change in direction with the hiring of a new city manager, of which early returns seem promising. But for the most part a new vision failed to be created.
Voters gave city leaders a chance to change course but it quickly became evident that we were just standing still during a time when action was needed on a long list of issues facing the community.
Last year voters felt there needed to be a change in direction. This year voters are simply looking for a direction to head in.
While the grocery store contract might have been the defining issue of the election, it isn’t the magic bullet to solving our problems. The citys not broke, at least not according to the budget, city manager and the accounting firm that works for the city. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t face financial challenges. We need prioritizing in the budget and we need economic growth, something that’s difficult to do when you basically tell one of your largest business owners to “take a hike.”
Piedmont needs to address utility rates, develop a clear plan of action when it comes to roads and there is still the matter of completing the city’s new police station. All these issues and more will not be settled with approval of the Williams Foods grocery store contract and it’s going to take vision, communication and compromise to meet our challenges.
I can sometimes be rather cynical about things but deep down and I’m an optimist. So much so that sometimes my wife says it drives her crazy and I have had at least one former newspaper boss tell me my optimism in life is one of my biggest weaknesses as a journalist. All I know is that I tend to believe in people and I tend to hold out hope that even when things look pretty bad there is also a decent chance our community, nation or world can find a way through.
I know a lot of people are cynical about things in Piedmont right now and often times you can’t really blame them. But what Piedmont needs right now is faith in its future. I’m talking about some kind of blind faith without accountability placed on our leaders. Instead, I am not talking about a faith in our future that believes with healthy debate, cooperation and a clear goal in mind we can move Piedmont forward.
This week someone handed me a letter they received in the mail. It was an unsigned letter criticizing the newly elected council and predicting the demise of the city if Williams is given tax incentives. It reeked of the negativity we saw last year and it was once again a criticism of the direction the city was headed in without offering any real alternative.
I would probably have written this column no matter what the results were this month concerning the city council election and I don’t want this to be taken as a total criticism of the council. I do think the council failed to deliver on some of the promises it made last year and I don’t believe the incoming members are going to bring instant healing. There will be mistakes made and our leaders should be held to the highest level of accountability, but what excites me about the city right now is that we appear to be headed towards the creation of a vision and moving in a direction forward.
It could be that sometime over the next several months and years you disagree with the direction the city is headed in. If you pay even some attention to local policy issues I can almost guarantee that will be the case. But my challenge to you is to get involved and express your thoughts on how the city can do better when it comes to moving forward.
There will be those that offer blind criticism and predict doom and gloom for the city but we can’t afford to go along with those that offer no alternative and simply want to keep the status quo.
The city is either moving forwards or backwards. There is no middle ground.