Lead, don’t follow, May 25, 2005

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

I’m sorry that I was out of town for the public meeting last Thursday on the direct election of the mayor.

According to a report in Saturday’s News-Herald that I read Sunday when I got back, only about 15 people showed up to hear a couple experts talk about the pros and cons of such a move.

Officials were disappointed in the turn out, as was the editorial writer at the Suffolk News-Herald who chastised the rest of you apathetic, lazybutts for not turning out.

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It’s a subject

I’m interested in and would love to learn more about, but had I been in town, I probably wouldn’t have attended either.

I work pretty long hours at the newspaper – just like a lot of other people. My wife is generally patient with my schedule, but when my work is done, she is typically ready for me to come home and give her a hand running the household. My &uot;personal growth&uot; falls a notch or two below things like getting the grass cut, weeds pulled, trash taken out, meals cooked, etc. during my limited spare time.

I figure there are many people like me around Suffolk, people who would like to learn more about the subject but were unable to attend because they were busy treading water in their lives.

Another obstacle to attendance, I imagine, was that anyone who attended stood a better than even chance of missing &uot;American Idol,&uot; that was nearing its finale and airing that night. I’m serious about that. People are crazy about that program.

Another problem might have been that it was not properly advertised. I believe the city did run ads for the meeting in an out of town newspaper, but they have seen fit to not advertise any longer with the local newspaper. You got me? Our tax dollars at work. But that’s a subject for another day.

My point is that low turnout at a poorly advertised public meeting on a work/school night opposite American Idol is no reason for dismissing the issue as a consideration.

Personally, I don’t have an opinion on whether or how it would benefit the residents of Suffolk to directly elect the mayor. I just don’t know enough about it. We will be exploring the issue in depth in a coming edition of the paper.

The city is doing the right thing by holding public meetings prior to making a decision on such an important matter. However, officials should decide to make such a move based on its merits, not attendance at a meeting. Further, city council members should go on record where they stand on it. I could be wrong, but I don’t think any have. They are supposed to lead, not follow.