I waited a few days before I wrote this letter because of the frustration I felt as a citizen of Cannon County specifically in the lack of response and total disregard to the duties of the members of the Cannon County Commission and other elected officials that did not attend the business forum that was held on April 7th, 2011 at the Courthouse.
So that all of you can better understand the notice and effort that was given to try to ensure as many of our elected officials could attend the meeting on April 7th, I want to give you some facts. Thirty letters of invite were sent out on March 5th thirty two (32) days in advance of the meeting. In the letter there were two telephone numbers provided to R.S.V.P. in the event the person could not make the meeting. I had one person out of all those invites who took the time to call and explain why they would not be there and that was Vice-Mayor Charlie Harrell.
The basic agenda for the meeting was provided in the invitation along with the main speakers who would be in attendance (State Senator Mae Beavers and our State Representative Mark Pody). In addition to them, we also had in attendance a representative from Congresswoman Dianne Black’s office and Don Rigsby who is a specialist with the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development covering Cannon County.
The meeting was advertised on the Cannon Courier website and an article was written in the Cannon Courier, along with a paid advertisement reminding everyone of the meeting. The day of the meeting, WBRY Radio Station was kind enough to remind the listeners of the upcoming meeting throughout the day.
The meeting was an eye opener to say the least. The main topic was to inform the public on what our current plan to bring new industry and business to Cannon County is and what we can do to make it better and help create much needed jobs and tax revenue for our community. Tax revenue is the key to building new schools, paving roads, providing basic services all over the county and is desperately needed in these tough economic times. Property taxes and the Wheel Tax are funding most of our services today.
The goal of this meeting was to find ways to create new industry in order to offset those taxes and to create jobs. Tourism was discussed and how we could improve marketing Cannon County in a positive way to draw outside dollars to support our local businesses when people come and “eat a meal and buy a tank of gas” while visiting the Moonlight Drive -In, the Good Ole Days, and the best “one night horseshow in the State of Tennessee”, or the Arts Center to name a few. At the end of the meeting I was told the Chamber of Commerce only receives $50.00 a year from the county and the support for marketing is simply not there.
Not surprisingly, it became evident and extremely clear as the meeting progressed that although it is easy to talk the talk, no one seems to be walking the walk when it comes to actually having Cannon County ready for new industry, old industry or new jobs in any way. Representative Pody used a quote by Lewis Carroll to best describe where we are in Cannon County: “When you don’t know where you are going, any road you take will lead you there.”
When comparing other counties five year plans to ours, it is easy to see why we fail. Other surrounding counties have plans with similar goals as ours, with people assigned to accomplish them and a dedicated time frame to get those goals completed. Ours is a good read, if you need something to put you to sleep at night. And I say that with no intent to disrespect the people who helped create our plan because the plan itself could be a good one. However what good are plans when you have no intention of following through with any of them? Blueprints to build a house are necessary, but if you never dig the foundation or lay the block then they are not worth the paper they are printed on.
The power to begin change on all of those issues lies within the scope of the County Commissioners. They are the ones who make the decisions that will either change the road we are on or continue to drive us down the one we are currently on. I lost faith in their desire to change or help by the lack of them in attendance.
I have heard one of them was at another meeting, some were supposed to be working and one was attending a funeral, the latter is very understandable. However, I do question the choices of all of the Commissioners who did not have a family emergency on not attending this meeting when it concerned so many different people, in so many different ways and has such an impact on the lives of the very citizens who voted them into office when they had over thirty days to make other arrangements.
It was especially disappointing considering we had members of our State government there to help us learn what we could do to help them help us. Perhaps had this meeting been about something as “important” as removing the powers of the Constable instead of creating jobs then maybe we would have had all ten in attendance. Whether you agree or disagree with that decision does not matter to me. However, when more focus and time is spent on something like that versus creating jobs I question the integrity and decision making ability of the Commissioners.
I sincerely believe in the idea that every citizen should help their local government create a better community for everyone to live in. I tried very hard to do just that. A lot of effort was put into this meeting from a lot of different people. Having two out of ten Commissioners in attendance was an embarrassment to this county and a total disregard to the citizens of Cannon County.
We were all told during the meeting by Representative Pody and Mr. Risgby that Cannon County is NOT ready to bring new jobs or new industry to our area because we have NOTHING to offer a business even if it was willing to locate here. That will always be true as long as we have leaders who are apathetic to the problems we face and more concerned about egos and matters that affect five citizens instead of the thousands in Cannon County.
I want to specifically thank Commissioners Tony Neal and Russell Reed who decided that being a Commissioner and representing the people who elected them was a serious job and attended the meeting. I would also like to thank those who did attend from the City of Woodbury to include Mayor Harold Patrick and several Alderperson’s. There were also Alderperson’s representing Auburntown as well. Sheriff Darrell Young was also present and I appreciate County Executive Mike Gannon for his input during the meeting. For those of you who attended that I have not mentioned, you were greatly appreciated also.
I invite you all to go to the link: http://vimeo.com/22294115 and view the meeting for yourself. It was recorded to help give you an idea of what we face and why we face it.