When my boys were in the baby/toddler stage, I was a stay-at-home mom, so I was with them every day. Whenever I left them at a nursery or with a babysitter, I always told them "Mommy will be back to get you when the clock says (one o'clock)."
I told them this even though they were too young to tell time. For my older son, the plan worked pretty well. Whoever was keeping him said that James occasionally would ask them if the clock said (one o'clock) yet, but other than that, he was happy. My younger son was not so cooperative, and he clung to me, kicking and screaming, and I would have to literally peel his arms off of me to leave him at the nursery.
But he, too, eventually learned that mommy really did come back like she said she would, and he didn't have to fear being abandoned. It's one of the first lessons of life every child learns, and trust between baby and mommy is established.
As a reporter in McDuffie County, I have seen three occasions recently where governing officials made big decisions that really upset the voters. Then, they had to go back and either re-address the issue and make changes, or explain and defend their action, thus reassuring the citizens that officials are not abandoning citizens' best interests.
The three issues are the City of Thomson's sign ordinance, the reorganization of traffic flow and parking along Railroad Street and the Board of Education's decision to close the Thomson Middle School building on Main Street to middle school students. Each of these issues are items that definitely needed to be changed and improved. And thankfully, all three seem to be headed in a direction that is good for all involved. But getting to that point surely was painful.
I wasn't at meetings in the beginning of the sign ordinance proposal, so I'm not versed on the details of how it came to be. But I could not help but hear the outcry after it was put into effect. The calls and visits to our office of upset business owners was unreal.
After local business owners filled city hall during a city council meeting, officials heard the complaints and immediately worked on a compromise that will make Thomson a beautiful city, as well as a prosperous one.
When plans were in the works to make Railroad Street a two-way street with angled parking next to the Depot and parallel parking in front of businesses, business owners were not happy.
Officials held a hearing with those involved, and then agreed to "go back to the drawing board."
Lastly, although it wasn't on any meeting agenda, the Board of Education voted after ending one of their executive sessions to close the middle school next year.
A press release was sent out the next day. People were surprised, to say the least.
Two months -- and I'm sure many phone calls -- later, the BOE held two public hearings to allow people to ask questions and to explain their decision. It appears that those who attended the hearings left feeling better.
All three incidents make me wonder why the public hearings weren't held before the decisions were made?
I realize that even after the hearings and changes, there are still some people who are unhappy. But you can't please all the people all the time.
Maybe the outcome may not have been any different if the hearings were held first.
But for me, I think there would be more trust if plans were laid out in the open and people know what to expect. I've never been, nor do I want to be, an elected or appointed official.
So, I'm not sure if the number-- or nature-- of phone calls received before a decision is worse than those received after a decision. I don't know what it's like to face comments and questions of your neighbor, best friend, know-it-all cousin, mother-in-law, grocery clerk, preacher, daughter's school teacher, nephew's soccer coach and the local newspaper columnist when you're enjoying dinner at a restaurant.
But I just can't help thinking about the importance of trust. Once it's established, the kicking and screaming goes away.