Members of the public at a recent Chattooga BOE Meeting

Elected officials are in office to represent “we the people.”  When elected officials refuse to hear the voice of the people, they are failing to do the job they were elected to do.  Recent comments from elected officials in Chattooga County are chilling to the principles of free speech, elected representation and to our Republic.

Any student of United States government will tell you that we live in a “democratic republic.”  Neither the “democratic” part nor the “republic” part is more important than the other.  In our system of government the people elect our representation to represent our collective views.  That’s the “democratic” (small “d”) part.  The “republic” (small “r”) is the part where our elected representatives do the job they were elected to do – represent the will of the people in the context of our Constitution.  In fact, the Founding Fathers were adamant about this system of government when they adopted a Constitution with a preamble that begins, “We the People of the United States….”

Currently here in Chattooga County “we the people” are getting a rotten deal.  We have a county government that does not hold public meetings.  The county government releases nothing to the press on a regular basis and instead uses one media outlet to make reactionary comments, and that on a infrequent basis at best.  When is the last time you saw a financial report from our county government?  When is the last time you can recall the county government holding a public meeting for discussion of issues relevant to this county’s future?  When does the county government outline plans for the future and goals to achieve?  (Not counting the mandated hearings for a tax increase – we’ve seen that one.) Does our county government have an up to date web site or social media presence?  Is our county government accessible to the public?

Now our currently elected county board of education has decided that hearing from the public constitutes “disorderly conduct”.  After multiple members of the public, from all political persuasions and walks of life, addressed the board in February, the board decided that they heat was too much and they don’t want anyone in the kitchen except themselves.  No matter what you think about the four-day school week vs. five-day school week, it is un-American for our Board of Education to insist that public input on an emotionally charged issue is somehow out of line.  At Thursday night’s meeting a board member cited the “disorderly conduct” of the public having their say as a reason to move the public comment portion to the end of the meeting.  There was nothing disorderly about the public participation at the previous meeting. There were people who were emotionally involved in a decision that was made in haste by the current board. Pontificating in a meeting or in the press characterizing the people’s say as “disorderly conduct” is irresponsible at best.  These politicians are not immune from public input.  As much as they would love to insulate themselves and boast about their “working on the agenda” they are ignoring the very people they represent.

The Board of Education does not work for the Republican Party.  The Board of Education does not work for the Democratic Party.  The Board of Education does not work for The Summerville News, nor All on Georgia nor WZQZ Radio.  The Board of Education does not work for Jimmy Lenderman.  The Board of Education does not work for Julia Houston, John Agnew, Sammy Ballard or Brad Hayes nor John Turner.  The Board of Education does not work for the teachers nor for the administrators.  The Board of Education works for “we the people.”  They may not realize the reality of “we the people” at this point, but it is very likely they will get a wake up call from “we the people” when it comes time to run for reelection.

This can be a learning experience for Chattooga County.  Blind partisanship does not work.  The person is more important that the political party.  Politicians are accountable to “we the people.”

We the people must be heard.  If the current crop of politicians refuse to hear us now, then they can hear from us at the ballot box.

Go vote in Tuesday’s SPLOST Election.  Let your voice be heard.