I love this place. With the exception of my college years, I’ve lived virtually my entire life in Columbus.
The title of this column I’ve written for a quarter century is “Partial to Home.” That describes me.
I’m worried about my hometown, our hometown, as we approach Tuesday’s municipal election.
We are in desperate need of a course correction.
According to U.S. Census figures, the city’s population declined 6.5 percent between 2010 and 2019.
Those we know who have moved away, often part with words of sympathy. They view us like passengers on a sinking ship. It’s disheartening, to say the least.
Over and over you hear of newcomers to the area choosing Starkville over Columbus.
It should come as no surprise.
The streets are cluttered with litter and pockmarked with potholes. Storm drain covers are askew, in some places supported with paint cans. Evidence of indifference is commonplace.
Those are just the things you can see walking around. The city’s inability to get a handle on its rising debt has been well documented by this newspaper.
The city is on poor terms with the county and the LINK. What good can come from that?
It’s time for a change at City Hall.
There is a lot of noise associated with this election by those who would divide us by race. We won’t succumb to hate mongering.
Four years ago I voted for Robert Smith. And four years before that.
The two of us share an enthusiasm for local characters (a resource we are blessed to have in abundance), and have had spirited conversations about such. We both played high school football for Coach Billy Brewer, though Robert was a much more gifted player.
He’s had a long run as mayor, a job he apparently now takes for granted.
That he would simply disappear from public life, as he did recently, for eight weeks and feel no responsibility to explain his absence, smacks of arrogance.
The mayor works for the people. At least he’s supposed to. He owes us transparency.
He’s been a consistent no-show at the usual campaign events: civic clubs or in the well-attended and well-received forum sponsored by this newspaper. Unlike other candidates, he’s refused media interviews.
Granted, challenger Keith Gaskin is untested. But, he offers optimism, an attribute we seem to have in short supply. He wants to foster cooperation between the many entities that enrich this community. That alone would be a welcome change.
I think we should give him a chance.
Don’t we all want the same things: a safe place to live, work and play; economic and professional opportunities for our children; a clean, beautiful and well-cared-for town?
We want our city to be run efficiently and fairly. We want competence. We want government officials who give a damn. Who are accountable.
Tuesday we have an opportunity to be better, to make a change. I hope we take it.
Birney Imes ([email protected]) is the former publisher of The Dispatch.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.