From elected officials who act more like public servants than politicians to entrepreneurs investing in Richmond County’s future, the past week has given us plenty to cheer about. We’ve culled some items from the news and take a moment today to share our thoughts in this occasional Cheers and Jeers feature.
CHEERS to Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue for his commitment to free speech in a public forum. While many cities and towns in North Carolina strictly regulate their governing bodies’ public comment sessions — some people have been forcibly removed for exceeding their allotted time — Blue is a patient facilitator who lets town residents have their say.
During last week’s Dobbins Heights council meeting, Blue listened intently to several speakers and gave them wide latitutde to share their views rather than minding the clock. Instead of shutting down a person who makes accusations, Blue allows speakers to finish before offering his reply. Government derives its power from the people, and that fact hasn’t escaped leaders of this small town.
CHEERS to Rock City Wings owner Ursula Render, who plans to bring more than savory chicken wings to Richmond County when her restaurant in the former House of Fish location opens its doors. Render told the Daily Journal for a story in last Friday’s edition that she hopes to start a youth mentoring program for underprivileged eighth- and ninth-graders. She also said she would donate a portion of the restaurant’s proceeds to local nonprofits.
Following in the tradition of many civic-minded local business owners, Render is willing to make a financial investment in Richmond County’s future. Her commitment serves as a reminder that taking care of the disadvantaged in our community is a responsibility we all share. Kudos to Render for her willingness to step up to the plate while piling plates high with home-cooked wings.
JEERS to state legislative leaders’ apparent unwillingness to hammer out a deal for North Carolina’s 2014-15 budget. Pay plans to improve the compensation package for our public school teachers — which now lags behind teacher pay in 45 other states — have been batted back and forth between the state House and Senate with little in the way of compromise. Now it seems the two sides aren’t even on speaking terms.
Budget negotiators in the House postponed a Friday meeting till Monday to accomodate their counterparts in the Senate, but the senators didn’t show. Lawmakers made their case to name placards positioned beside empty chairs. This strikes us as a childish stunt on the Senate’s part. It suggests an unwillingness to even consider meeting the other chamber in the middle.
It’s worth pointing out that Richmond County’s lawmakers are doing their part to pass a budget. The dysfunction between state House and Senate leaders makes us wish our levelheaded legislators had a seat at that largely empty table.
CHEERS to the teenagers and young adults volunteering their time at Richmond County social service agencies and nonprofits. We profiled a handful of these enthusiastic volunteers on the front page of Tuesday’s Daily Journal.
From providing comfort to hospice patients in their final days to coaching kids in the city of Rockingham parks and recreation department’s summer day camp, teens are showing that they care about their community. While they aren’t paid for the valuable services they provide, we know that each will find the experience rewarding.
Today’s volunteers may well be tomorrow’s leaders. Sheriff James E. Clemmons Jr. and state Sen. Gene McLaurin credit volunteering with helping to put them on the path to success and fulfillment. We’re glad to see so many Richmond County teens working to make our community a better place to live, and we hope others will follow in their footsteps.