Citizens want, deserve accountability from elected officials

Published 3:00 am Saturday, June 24, 2017

The citizens want accountability from their elected officials.

If you question that, just take a minute to read the news or, worse yet, social media accounts as President Donald Trump’s administration continues to limit media access and to obfuscate answers and information.

That same expectation of accountability holds true, perhaps even more so, at a local level, where taxpayers and voters often meet face-to-face with the men and women they elect to hold local or state office.

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So it’s surprising that a recent decision by the Brundidge City Council has generated little to no public explanation by the mayor and council members.

On Tuesday, the council voted to deny a lease request from the Brundidge Historical Society. The group sought to formalize a lease for the We Piddle Around Theater building, a city-owned property that for 16 years has housed the BHS’ productions including “Come Home, It’s Suppertime,” Alabama’s Official Folklife Play.

The group has had exclusive use of the building for more than 15 years, investing money and sweat equity into repairs; sound and lighting equipment; decorations; and construction, including building a stage. But in recent months, city officials have allowed other private groups to rent the theater, something the BHS worries could become a trend.

So the BHS leadership proposed a lease, offering to pay the city a minimum of $300 per month for exclusive use of the building.

And the council denied the request.

In full disclosure, the play’s author Jaine Treadwell is an employee of this paper and she is actively involved in the BHS. Also, two council members – Margaret Ross and Chris Foster – are active in the BHS, with Foster having performed in the play and now serving as BHS president.

But those connections aren’t what prompted this concern; instead it is the voice of the people.

Residents throughout Brundidge and Pike County expressed concern over the council’s decision this week, taking to social media with these comments, among others:

“Each that voted that way needs to explain in a written statement why they reached that conclusion!”

“I would like to know why they wouldn’t lease the building.”

“It’s time for the citizens of Brundidge to write a note to our city council.”

And those are fair requests.

The Brundidge mayor and council should explain the reasoning behind their decision to reject a proposal that, on the surface, would appear to generate steady revenue for the city and help protect the interests of the theater that draws thousands of people from across the region to Brundidge. We don’t know what other factors played a role in the council’s vote, because council members haven’t offered any explanation, but we believe the citizens of Brundidge have a right to know and a responsibility to weigh the answers when offered.

Mayor Isabell Boyd campaigned on transparency and openness in city government. She has an opportunity to follow-through on that intent by explaining her vote and challenging the remaining council members to do the same.

We believe the Brundidge officials have the best interests of the community in mind; stepping up and offering accountability is the best way to continue to foster and grow community trust and support, both of which are critical for any community to flourish