Being there

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is it important for those officials we elect to represent us attend every city council or county commission meeting?

Is it important that they attend functions such as city retreats, where a broad picture of the city’s future is hashed out among elected and appointed officials?

We think so.

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That’s why The Post-Searchlight feels it’s important to report one bit of information about the race between Bainbridge Councilman Greg Waddell and his opponent, Phil Long, who is a member of the Bainbridge Planning Commission.

Waddell’s attendance at city council meetings is 77 percent, missing 22 of 96 meetings in four years. The city council normally meets twice a month—the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

“Over the past eight years as a member of the Bainbridge City Council, I have balanced family, business and City Council very effectively. I developed property along the Gulf Coast and other areas until 2007, which caused for much travel. However with any/each meeting that I had to miss due to family or business—I made sure that those meetings were not critical to the well-being of the City of Bainbridge and that a quorum would be present. I always made the city manager and/or mayor aware that I may not be present and got their ‘OK’ that all was good for that particular meeting,” Waddell said in a written statement Tuesday.

Long’s attendance at Bainbridge Planning Commission meetings is 84 percent, missing six of 38 meetings in the last four years. Planning meetings are normally held once a month, but only when there is an agenda.

The other City Council members—Mayor Mark Harrell, Councilmen Roslyn Palmer, Joe Sweet, Luther Conyers, Edward Reynolds and Dean Burke—each have attendance above 95 percent. Sweet has 94 percent, the lowest of those six.

City Council members get compensated for their time—and that time could include getting calls from citizens with a complaint or attending numerous functions outside of official meetings.

We understand the emergencies, the planned vacations and other legitimate reasons why an elected officials can’t attend a meeting every once in a while.

However, those meetings are the only legal forum to hash out issues facing our community: To call a spade a spade; to question in public the expenditures of tax dollars; to do what the citizens of our community elected you to do—represent us.

You can’t do that on the sidelines. Being there is important.