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Southern Eyes

It's an age of cutbacks like most young-to-middle-aged Americans have never seen.

Because The Mirror office has a small staff, several of us put in extra hours or serve double duty of some form. Sometimes, I don't realize how the days literally run together. I came to work this morning to find there was no room for my purse on my desk. In addition to the usual assortment of newspapers, meeting agendas and packets, reporter notebooks and sticky notes, there were several half-empty soda cans and coffee mugs, a tomato, a tube of hand cream, a hair band and a pair of earrings, plus a pair of shoes under my desk. Ironically, the paper towels in the kitchen here at work have a "home sweet home" motif. I guess I took it literally.

On the local level, I have seen companies and governments sweat over budgeting decisions that combined departments, spread out responsibilities, implemented hiring freezes, cut hours of operation and charged for - or discontinued - free services.

I am truly impressed with their ideas and the positive attitude of employees who are thankful to keep their job, no matter how it changes. On the other hand, I've silently laughed because some areas of excessive spending that seemed obvious to me were overlooked altogether by the board. And, I'm not the only one taking notice.

There's one tax-funded entity that I've received a few phone calls about. The callers want to tell the salary of a certain assistant they feel is being overpaid. I've also had people tell of officials from two different tax-funded entities using their "company" vehicles for personal use, i.e. driving their families around on weekends. I don't know who is paying for the gas in these vehicles, or who would be liable if there was an accident in these cases. I didn't see the personal use myself. I'd like to think there's a logical reason, or it's a one-time occurrence.

If you are concerned with something like this, you have the right as a citizen to exercise your freedom of speech. I encourage you to visit a board meeting of the offending governmental entity and voice your concerns during the "public input" time. You may not get the response you'd like, but at least officials will be on their toes. Meeting dates and times are usually posted on this page of your newspaper.

I also encourage you to write a letter to the editor. For some reason, that space on this page rarely is used. I understand not wanting to put your name on something that may offend someone, but you'd be surprised how many people will come out of the woodwork who agree with you. If your complaint is legitimate (research it to make sure), then you will be doing the entire community a favor, and everybody wins.

Although the incidents named above are McDuffie County, our neighboring county has had its own share of woes. It blows my mind that tax payers of Warren County now have to pay legal fees of three school board members who are in court because of their misgoverning actions. I appreciate the board members being passionate and standing strong. But, I can't believe they'd ask that money be taken away from the education of students and put toward their own well being. Trust me, this recent action is being noticed by officials at all levels of the state.

I was surprised when I heard the legal-fee-paying discussion was on the Warren County BOE's agenda. I guess I really have been spending too much time at my desk. Hopefully, I'll see you soon at a meeting. I'll be there as soon as I find my shoes.

Web posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010

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