The most surprising thing to come out of this week’s City Commission meeting was the amount of public participation, not the increased parking time.
Because of that hands-on attitude — by business owners as well as the general public — commissioners lengthened the amount of time a person can park for free downtown from two to three hours.
All because people got out and got involved in their local government.
The idea of changing the plan to paid on-street parking and making parking free in the downtown parking decks came from models established in other growing cities whose downtown areas were suffering because of a parking crunch.
Here’s the problem, the data — at least up to this point — doesn’t back up the need for the change in the first place.
Admittedly, it’s a small sample, but the first three weeks of parking data collection showed that 67% of the vehicles are parked downtown for less than an hour a day.
In 2010, the last survey showed 70% were staying less than an hour. So what has changed?
Looking around downtown Rome over that time, a lot. People are coming downtown because there’s been a lot of private and public investment into making it a place people want to be.
Government works better with public participation and input, but as the public we also have to be understanding about the way things work. Education about the way things work would be better, but participation in this day and age is a pretty lofty goal in and of itself, so let’s stick with that.
Things aren’t always what we’re going to want them to be. We’ve seen the comments on social media from angry people wanting money from special purpose, local option sales tax projects to be used to pave their roads, etc. That’s not the way that works. In fact, it’s illegal to use the funds in that way.
So those funds scheduled for the SPLOST-funded Agriculture Center? They have to go to that project.
That $8 million project was approved in the most recent SPLOST. The interesting thing is it was a citizen-submitted project that netted significant public support.
Again, the Ag Center proposal was the direct result of people showing up at SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee meetings. Like it or not, citizens showed up and our government listened.
That’s the way it is supposed to work.
So far, it’s been relatively quiet on the election front.
The qualifying period will be the last week in August for six of the nine Rome city commissioners and two of the five Cave Spring council members as well as the mayor of Cave Spring.
This November the seats for Ward 3 Commissioners Bill Collins, Evie McNiece and Craig McDaniel and for Ward 1 Commissioners Milton Slack, Bill Irmscher and Sundai Stevenson are up for election. Their terms expire in December.
The board set the qualifying fee at $252, equal to 3% of a commissioner’s $8,400 annual salary.
Cave Spring Mayor Dennis Shoaf’s term of office expires on Dec. 31. The seats held by Council Members Tom Lindsey and Joyce Mink also will be on the ballot in November.
Presently, none have officially declared whether or not they’ll run for office again. But, as always, rumors abound.
On another note, for an election still a good ways away — all three people who have declared their run for the sheriff’s seat in 2020 will be at a town hall-type speaking event on Tuesday at Fuddruckers.
The Rome Tea Party and Conservative Coalition will be hosting all three announced candidates at noon: Tom Caldwell, Ronnie Kilgo and Dave Roberson. Each of the three candidates will speak for 15 minutes including a question-and-answer session afterward. You, as the public, are also invited to the event.
Also, on the last side note of this editorial, we hope everyone had a happy Father’s Day.