Jane and Fred are getting divorced. Their mutual friend Amber asks Jane “why?” and gets an earful. Amber comes away thinking, “Fred is awful. I hate Fred too.” But Amber thinks (quite extraordinarily) that she should talk to Fred. After talking to Fred, Amber comes away thinking, “Jane is awful! How has he managed to live with her?”
You see, there are 2 sides to every story.
And so it goes in local politics. Appen, a fine local newspaper publisher, took to writing about a local blogger recently, a Ms. Jensen, creator of the Johns Creek Post. Ms. Jensen prides herself in covering issues in Johns Creek that she believes Appen does not cover. She tells the other side of the story. Good for her.
Ms. Jensen, a local blogger, deserves praise for putting herself out there and offering a different viewpoint. And we all hope she’s being accurate, just as we hope Appen is being accurate.
The city of Johns Creek, deserves praise for their openness via live video session of their Council meetings. Unlike the city of Alpharetta, “The Technology City of the South”, Johns Creek’s video is high quality and doesn’t frequently encounter technical problems that disable their live streaming video entirely.
But, I’ve got nothing to say for or against the city of Johns Creek, Ms. Jensen or Appen Newspapers after that.
This is what I’ve got to say: it’s easy to offer another side to the story. It’s easy to find those that differ, either quietly or vehemently. Everyone has an opinion just like everyone has a nose. What’s difficult is engaging citizens in local issues. Does Appen do that well? Do local bloggers do that well? I can’t speak for Johns Creek, but an easy trip to Alpharetta City Hall will answer that question. In terms of those who vote, and those who show up at City Hall to hear or speak on issues, Alpharetta is quite UN-engaged as a city. How do you change this? That’s the real issue.
When you’re not engaged with your bank account or credit card a lot of things can happen. An erroneous figure is subtracted from your account. Or you get 5 credit card purchases at convenience stores in Flagstaff, Arizona where you’ve never been. When you’re not paying attention to and taking care of your house a lot can happen. Squirrels invade the attic and chew through wires. A slow leak in your plumbing rots the floor and one day the ceiling falls through. When you never visit the doctor a lot can go wrong. A cancerous cell spreads. An easy non-invasive test would have caught it. But you hate doctors.
All of the above involves assets: our financial accounts, our homes, our bodies. We work – we slave – to take care of our assets. What about the assets all around us – our roads, neighborhoods, safety, schools, shopping, parks, environment? For some reason people are more than willing to ignore these assets and let elected folks take care of it. But elected folks are human. They may be honest as the day is long yet still make mistakes. They may not be honest at all and masquerade as working on our behalf in order to work on their own behalf. And yet, citizens can be more than willing to ignore and trust.
How do you change that? Because that’s what needs to happen. That’s how we take care of this asset called “Where I Live”. That’s how we make good lives for ourselves. It’s called “Community”. That’s all I ever wanted to do. And still want to do. And it’s the bigger question. Has Appen engaged the citizens of these small north Fulton cities and inspired them to become more involved in local issues? Has Ms. Jensen done the same?
No. I think we all have a long way to go.