This never happens, although it should.
Wednesday, the entire Golden Triangle state legislative delegation shared a podium at Lion Hills Center.
Aside from the rare joint sessions held at the Capitol, the six legislators — senators Angela Turner-Ford and Chuck Younger and representatives Gary Chism, Tyrone Ellis, Kabir Karriem and Jeff Smith — the six are never in the same room at the same time.
For about an hour, the legislators fielded pre-selected questions from the audience. Most, but not all of those questions revolved around the issues of road/bridges funding, education funding and the state’s budget crisis.
The event was sponsored by the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, which plans to make this an annual event. We applaud the Chamber for arranging this forum. We believe it addresses a serious problem that has far too long been ignored.
There was a time when residents paid careful attention to what was happening in our state capitol and how the people they sent to Jackson voted on critical issues. Now, it seems the people have no knowledge and little interest in what is happening there, even though the decisions made in Jackson have real-life consequences for people in every corner of our state.
Legislators, like all people in all walks of life, are most effective when they are held accountable. When the lines of communication between the people and those chosen to serve the peoples’ interest are removed, our government ceases to function as it should.
We would like to see and hear from our legislators more often and be given the opportunity to share our views on the issues they face in Jackson. But, generally speaking, legislators’ appearances are confined to groups that share their views — preaching to the choir, it is called.
In that respect, Wednesday’s meeting was also rare — a non-partisan gathering (or at least as non-partisan as it can be in our community) where legislators had to carefully consider their words.
The format could have been better — it afforded no real opportunity for the legislators to challenge each other’s comments — but that is a mild criticism.
The forum provided a rare chance to hear our legislators address issues. We applaud the Chamber and the legislators and hope other groups will be encouraged to hold similar forums.
We need to hear from our legislators.
More importantly, they need to hear from us.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.