When the Connecticut massacre hit a week ago, one of the first people I spoke to was Mayor Ronnie. We didn’t even exchange pleasantries, but went straight to the heart of what we have so often discussed, and about which we have regularly prayed: public safety and quality of life in Athens, AL. The recent national “heart attack,” that is, the attack upon the heart and soul of Newtown, as well as the rest of our nation, would try to crush us, and, as he then said later, “We are vulnerable, all cities are, but we must work together to do all that we can to prevent something like that from happening here.” It is true, we must, time is of the essence, and while this might in some ways feel like “the worst of times,” thankfully action is being taken on the part of the Mayor’s Office, the school system, and law enforcement to see where we are weak, and how to effectively shore up our city.
One of the things he is planning on discussing with the Mayor’s Youth Commission after they get back from Christmas break is the need, as well as the responsibility for them as leaders to be on the lookout in their own schools for anything that “doesn’t seem right,” to reach out to those who may be cut off from their own value. “There are video games where you get to be the school shooter, or the shooter in the mall,” he told me. I had no idea. God help us.
How are we able to claim, during this 2012 holiday season, that these are the “best of times?” He told me, “Every day I get up and thank God that I live in America, and with everything that is wrong with it, it is the best place in the world to live.” We need to remember that. Athens is in the black financially, and as a result, will be able to move toward getting 2-3 much needed new garbage trucks. “We are self-insured,” he added, “and that is one of the reasons we are in the black.” We also have wonderful agencies that are dedicated to providing services to our community in a timely and fiscally responsible manner. “People need to know that we believe that the best agencies have been targeted as being the best choice for appropriated funds.” Another thing about which we can rejoice is that we, as citizens, have a City Hall and government that has all expenditures available as a part of public record, and can be viewed by all. No “cooked books.”
“We closed out the fiscal year 2012, and passed a conservative budget. We have 1.4 million dollars, and that will be carefully used both for planning for the future, and to take care of some things that were let go.”
Most blessedly, though, these are “the best of times” because we have Athens, each other, and God, we therefore have true hope. And finally, the Mayor would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and, “if you are going to make New Year’s resolutions, make sure they are ones you can actually keep!”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner