How to make a difference

Published 5:17 pm Thursday, August 8, 2013

It’s heartening to see Beaufort County residents and others speak out at public hearings on various issues that will affect them.

That happened several times during the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday. Some county residents offered their opinions on proposed changes to the county’s animal-control ordinance. Others voiced their views on a proposed ordinance that would require setbacks and buffers around energy projects like solar farms. Some folks provided input on a proposal to change how county commissioners are elected.

Those people should be commended for caring enough to show up at those public hearings and letting their voices be heard. Too often, many residents don’t bother to show up at public hearings to provide input that elected officials or other government officials need as they seek information to help them make decisions.

Late last month, state environmental officials received plenty of viewpoints concerning the proposed Martin Marietta Aggregates mining operation in southern Beaufort County. That public hearing is just one more example of people getting involved with an issue when it’s really important to them.

Unfortunately, the public’s attendance at city council meetings, county commissioners meetings, board of aldermen meetings and town commissioners meetings is sparse for the most part. That’s a shame. Local tax rates are determined at such meetings. How tax revenues are spent is determined at those meetings. The locations of a new police station and a new park are made at such meetings. What kinds of development and where that development such take place are discussed at those meetings.

When Washington’s City Council meets, most of the time there are more city department heads and staff in the audience than members of the public. It should be the other way around.

Some people may contend that the elected officials don’t listen to them and do what they want when they do voice their opinions, viewpoints ad recommendations. If that’s the case, those people can remedy that situation at the ballot box at the next appropriate election.

One may wonder if something just one person does or says can make a difference. Ask Rosa Parks. One single action by her made a difference.

It made a world of difference.