Much to ponder in today’s world

Some days there is just not enough coffee in the world to make the day any better. We don’t have an IV at the office but there are days I wish we did. Coffee just seems to make things better but starting the day off right with God is even more important. Even on those days when coffee is not working for me God is still good all the time and I’m thankful to be upright and breathing.
Seems like lately the weather is on steroids! One thing you should have realized through all of this is that even the weather people aren’t sure and they aren’t in control. God controls the weather.
There has been lots of rain everywhere which has brought flooding. It is said that April showers bring May flowers, so we shall see. My garden sure is loving the rain. Using raised beds this year which you need to water more, so I’m thankful for the rain.
Patti Temple, the chamber and Historical Society are gearing up for the annual Jugfest, so be on the watch for activities around this event. We will be doing a special section again and hope local businesses will participate. Patti does a great job and we really appreciate her and everyone else who volunteers and gets things done.
Congratulations to the new Planning and Zoning Director, Jake Watson. Jake is no stranger as he was once the EMA director. I’ve known him for a long time including from his restaurant manager days and Jake, is, in my opinion, a good guy. He’s very well-rounded and capable and it’s great to see him in that office. He hit the floor running, I was told.
At last week’s joint meeting of the city and county to discuss the SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), Brenda Carrol was in attendance as was Lesley McNary from the Development Authority. Lesley is energetic and very interested in moving the county forward. Was great to see Brenda looking so well these days.
If you haven’t tasted the strawberries at Dickey Farms this year, what are you waiting for? They are really sweet. It’s worth the trip just to get some ice cream. You don’t need an excuse for ice cream ever, I say!
The city’s new police cars are certainly an asset. Brand spanking new and you helped pay for them with SPLOST funds. Congratulations to the city on the cars. Chief Ty Matthews’ smile seems broader these days because of the cars.
There is some talk of a new business or two coming to town and that would really be exciting. We really need to support these local businesses. You don’t have a right to complain if you don’t support them. Lack of support is one reason the grocery store left. Other options are in the works, but whatever transpires will need support. Take pride in your community and support businesses, including this newspaper. We are also a small, local business.
Next week is the National Day of Prayer and all of us certainly need to be on our knees praying more. America needs more prayer than ever.
Our government cannot fix us and politics does anything but heal us. God is the only thing that can. If you believe anything else you will never feel whole or peaceful.
I am one of those who is grieving over the division in our country today. It is winning on many fronts and there are some who pat themselves on the back for being part of the division.
Division/disunity, does nothing to honor Christ. In fact in Luke 11:17, Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction and a house divided against itself falls.”
As Christians, we are not exempt from this principle and neither is America, our family, church, business or friendships. If you know a subject is divisive, then perhaps, at this point in time, it shouldn’t be discussed until things settle back down. You certainly shouldn’t be adding fuel to the flame. My grandmother always said the more you stir something, the more it smells and that is the way it is today. If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.
We can be a part of the solution by praying for America. We may be fed up with everything that’s going on but that doesn’t preclude us from offering prayer. Prayer should always be our first choice in every situation, not the last. America needs to experience the next move of God across the land.
Before every great movement of God in the Bible and even in history, prayer preceded it. So when praying ask God for a great spiritual awakening across out country.
With all that’s going on we can be part of the solution by loving one another. God commands us to do so. Instead of the “me-too” movement we need a “Love each other” movement that begins with Christians. It can begin with each of us individually.
In today’s chaos, Christians especially need each other more than ever. We’ve got to stand together and rally for the fact that the Bible is God’s infallible Word. It is total truth and without error. Salvation comes through Christ alone and we should be taking the word to those who do not know Him.
We need prayer warriors to rise up, gather together and be the light of Jesus in this world which gets darker by the hour. We need unity and we need to quit fighting over trivial matters.
Our faith should not waiver in the current eroding of culture. As Christians, our future is not in the hands of the government; it is in the hands of the one true God. For a great move of God, we have to unite in our prayers and ask God to heal us. I’m praying and I hope you join with me.©2019

VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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Considering the Cross

Easter celebrations from my childhood were all about family. We started the day out in church together, then would enjoy a meal together, sometimes at my grandparents’ home.
I didn’t mind the frilly dresses and lace socks too much, but there were times that they did itch.
After lunch, of course, we posed with Easter baskets and would find the eggs which had been hidden. Some years we would meet at a park convenient to most of us and all the kids would hunt eggs together. Always seemed like there was at least one egg that was never found.
As the years went on there were more plastic eggs to hide for convenience I suppose. Plus, there were just too many boiled eggs for us to eat. Stains from dying could stay on your fingers for weeks to remind you of all the fun.
As I got older, I began attending sunrise services. There’s just something moving about watching the sun rise over the cross. It reminds you that if you believe in Christ, life is eternal.
One year, we had a sunrise service at our house with the kids, grandkids and my parents. That is one of my favorites. David presided over the service and then we had breakfast afterwards.
It’s a shame families don’t take as much time for get-togethers as they used to do. It’s kind of taken a back seat and we stay too busy doing this or that; things which don’t matter as much.
In reality, Easter isn’t about the chocolate, the bunnies, the eggs or spending time with family. It’s about Christ’s death and resurrection which provides our hope. Studying Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, we can find valuable lessons to take away and keep in our hearts.
Christ’s death was necessary. It makes me cry thinking about the torture and the pain He endured for me. Something I certainly didn’t deserve but He thought I was deserving. Had it not been for the cross, we were condemned to hell. The cross was the only way that we could ever be right with God. He paid the price for our sins so we didn’t have to pay for them.
Jesus was mocked and scorned, even on the cross. We all have a sin nature. Some people think they are good enough and don’t need the salvation Jesus gave us on the cross. From the cross we see that even with knowledge of what the cross meant for us, not everyone will accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
No matter how far in sin you’ve gone, the cross teaches that all are redeemable. Even the thief on the cross who knew he deserved his punishment but Jesus did not.
The thief had come to the end of himself and realized Jesus could provide salvation. Jesus saw the man’s heart and that what he said was genuine. Sometimes people have to come to the end of themselves to accept Christ.
Christ’s death on the cross teaches we can go straight to the Father; He’s open and accessible to us. Before that the priest would go into the temple once a year and present a burnt offering for the sins of the people.
The veil of the temple tore in two at His death, opening the way since Christ atoned for our sins, for us to enter into the most holy place for ourselves. A human mediator was no longer needed.
Not only did the thief give his life to Christ, one of the Roman soldiers who was standing at the foot of the cross, realized that Jesus was who He claimed to be. There is always room for more.
Jesus on the cross, teaches us to forgive those who hurt us; don’t remain a victim by holding grudges.
He teaches us to reach out to others and to take care of the people who depend on you. No matter what we are going through, we shouldn’t be blind to the needs of those around us or expect others to suffer because we are suffering.
From the cross and Jesus’ words, we learn that we should direct the hard questions to God. Jesus asked the Father, why He had forsaken Him. When we question why, God is the only one who can pour healing into your heart and help you make sense of things.
On the cross, Christ acknowledged His humanity and we should too. He said He was “thirsty”. No matter how strong we think we are, there are times when we are not self sufficient and need help from others. Needing help and asking for it, is a lesson in humility.
We can’t add anything to Christ’s death on the cross. It covered every sin, from the cradle to the grave. It was finished then and there.
There are some people and even some seasons in our lives when struggles seem to be never ending. We can have peace in all situations when we commit the outcome to God, just as Jesus said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” in Luke 23-46.
This was an act of trust meaning he was surrendering control to the Father It wasn’t a defeat, his work was finally completed.
But before Jesus could turn it over to God, he had to pray, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” in Luke 23:42. When we get to that point, we have sweet, sweet peace and freedom.
The cross calls us to come to Jesus, yes, but it is also calling us into a way of life, to let God have his way in everything. I do not understand those people who are not humbled and brought to tears when they consider the cross. Yes thinking about Christ on the cross pains me, but oh it brings me so much joy and peace. When you understand it and ask God into your life, the peace is immeasurable.
Enjoy your Easter celebrations and pause at least for a while, to consider the cross and all it means. ©2019

VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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Community is the greatest thing

One of the things I love about this job is getting to attend ribbon cuttings and grand openings. You get to see people you don’t see all the time and meet new ones as well. It’s just exciting when new businesses open and it gives you hope for the vitality of the community. Community support is the backbone of keeping your community vibrant and moving forward.
This past Saturday was the grand opening and ribbon cutting at Greenway Farms, out Hwy. 80. Of course, I already knew Kerry and Robin and know they are genuine, good people. They have partnered with Joy and Steve Hunt and I finally met them Saturday.
Funny thing is, I already knew Joy’s mother-in-law, from my many years in Fort Valley. I also knew Linda and Tiger Smith and their daughter, Nicolanne. I finally got to meet “Lucycat”, Nicolanne’s daughter, who is more precious in person than the photos I’ve seen on social media.
In addition, Judge Bryant Culpepper, also from my Fort Valley days, was in attendance along with a couple of others. Judye Sellier was in attendance and it’s been a while since I’ve seen her. Judye is one special lady and always lets me know how much she appreciates what we do.
Our representative Robert Dickey attended and we certainly appreciate all he does, not only in the Legislature but also on the farm. Betty and Charlie Harris were in attendance and I love seeing them. They are always so pleasant.
Jay Andrews and his wife, Pam were in attendance and people are always wanting to talk to him about one thing or another in the city. Other locals I recognized were Dan Hudson and family and of course our own Patti Temple from the chamber was on hand.
The food we eat and how it’s processed is so important to our overall health and it’s great to be able to have this available locally. It certainly helps that the people there are so wonderful.
Though the day started off rainy and dreary the rain held off and the opening was well attended and I’m happy for Greenway Farms.
Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black attended and spoke. He has always seemed so down to earth to me and his words rang true. He mentioned the fact that we need to unwind from the phone as well as talking about Georgia Grown and Greenway Farms and the importance of agriculture.
Melissa Slaughter, From the Bog by the Grace of God, was there with her locally grown plants and herbs. A newcomer to the area, Melissa has endeared herself into my heart and I have come to love her. She is the one who brought the “Thank you Jesus” signs to our area and I can attest that she loves Jesus.
The only negative of the day for me was the fact that people and their cell phones are so rude when taking photos. We still need to be courteous to others. One lady really infuriated me by getting right in the way of everyone trying to get a ribbon cutting photo. Of course, this was not any fault of anyone involved in getting the day going, but it is one of my pet peeves.
My hubby keeps telling me we need to take a step ladder so we can get above them and after Saturday, I believe he’s right. For newspaper purposes, cell phones do not take good enough photos as the resolution is too low and I have forbid my employees to use them unless it is the only way to get a photo.
But that had nothing to do with the good folks at Greenway Farms. Even their marketing people were courteous when taking photos.
I tried the Boston Butt and it was out of this world, as were the garlic pickles. My hubby liked the bread and butter ones the best. I also sampled the coffee from Heartland Acres Homestead in Dry Branch, which was also good. Heartland also has microgreens.
It was just a good day of fellowship with down home folks who remind you there are plenty of wonderful people in our communities. All the bad news going around in the world, makes you forget that at times, so it’s good to be reminded.
Greenway is in hopes of expanding hours down the road and I pray that works out for them. Maybe sometime in the not too distant future, they might think about a satellite location in town for those people who can’t travel the six miles to them.
You can not only get meat without hormones or antibiotics that is pasture raised, but fresh eggs, honey, jellies, pickles and more.
Greenway Farms is part of the Georgia Grown program which is a marketing and economic development program of the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Their No. 1 goal is to aid our agricultural economies by bringing together producers, processors, suppliers, distributors, retailers, agri-tourism and consumers in one powerful, statewide community. All products are grown or produced in Georgia.
For your health and the health of your community and state, make an effort to buy locally grown food. Your body will thank you for it.
Congratulations to Greenway Farms. If you missed it Saturday, they are open every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and located on Hwy. 80 West about six miles out. ©2019

VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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Getting your hands dirty

There’s just something about putting your hands in the dirt that makes you feel grounded. This past weekend, we began preparing our garden and are doing raised beds for the first time.
We had two of our granddaughters helping for two days. Mind you they are seven and ten and so you might think they weren’t that much help, but they were. In fact, they seemed to enjoy getting their hands dirty. Mostly because that meant they could then use the water hose to wash the dirt off and somehow manage to get wet and wet each other as well.
Still, they helped put the garden soil in the beds, make it even and put the plants in the holes. Then they watered. When we took them home one of their parents asked if they wanted to help with the garden again and they both said an emphatic “yes”.
The older one also tried to help Grandpa with the chicken pen but it became too much of a chore. We still have things to plant so maybe they will return and help with more planting. We should be teaching the younger generation about planting gardens and growing your own food. It’s an important lesson.
I’ve loved gardening from a very young age. My grandmother lived on a farm and there were always vegetables and fruits to pick during each season. I didn’t really get to help with the planting then. We had a small garden at home which I did help with from time to time.
As an adult, I started having my own garden. Working on and in the garden is therapeutic at times. Reaping the harvest from all that hard work is also rewarding and refreshing. You get to see results from the work. But the reward doesn’t come without lots of work. I think it runs in my blood though, because most of my gardens have been successful.
Going to raised beds this year we didn’t have to prepare the soil as much as usual since we added garden soil from bags to the dirt we hauled from the yard. But next year, it will be back to tilling the soil gain before planting. It just comes with the territory if you are going to garden.
Nothing in life worth having, really comes without work. Part of that work is in preparation. Preparing yourself and doing what is necessary for the task at hand.
You can compare gardening to life in many areas. First you do need a vision or plan for your garden. If you do it willy nilly and hope for the best, chances are it will not produce as much as otherwise and you could have disastrous results. It’s the same with life: you have to at least semi-plan for some things to be successful.
Prioritizing what plants you will grow is also important. Certain plants shouldn’t be planted together. I tend to want to overextend myself in how many varieties of vegetables I will plant. I always have to check myself and prioritize to plant only those which we will utilize or share with others because space is limited. In life, we must prioritize what’s important or we can become overwhelmed. Putting God at the top of your list helps with everything else on your list.
With a garden you reap what you sow. You can’t reap watermelon if you don’t sow watermelon seeds. In life we should be sowing seeds of kindness and compassion. If we want blessings, we should strive to bless others. Also in life sowing can mean working on a degree, house, family, etc. You have to put in the effort to reap the rewards.
A garden needs constant tending. You just can’t plant it and let it go. Weeds have to be removed, the soil fertilized and it must be watered if there is not enough rain. That can require getting your hands dirty. Your life needs constant tending too. We must watch out for weeds like spending too much time on the internet, procrastination, neglecting our health and adding unnecessary tasks.
Gardening requires patience as from the time you plant until the time you harvest does not happen overnight. You must trust the process and in life you must trust God.
It’s not always easy to get to the harvest. You can run into obstacles you can’t control, like too much rain which can create problems in your garden. In gardening you must be flexible as you do in life because you are not in control. No matter what happens we need to keep moving forward.
If you’ve taken proper care of your garden, you’ll reap a bountiful harvest. Some years, of course, may be better than others. If something was amiss in your garden strategy this year, you can adjust and do it differently next year. If we live our lives properly as our Father in Heaven wants us to live, we will reap the blessings of a joyous life. No matter what mistakes you might have made today, you can readjust and try again as God’s mercies are fresh every day.
Are you properly preparing your life daily by spending time with your Creator? It’s the best way for a harvest of blessing and peace. Happy gardening. ©2019

VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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Tooting our own horn

Journalism, like people isn’t what it used to be. It’s constantly changing, not always for the better. Society itself, is also changing and definitely not for the better.
One of the things I love about my job is that it is never the same each week. Yes, some things are the same tasks like page layout but you are not putting the same information on the page each week, so that makes it different to me. I’ve left the business a couple of times because it can be stressful and people cruel, but God has put me back every time. I finally gave up and accepted I’m where I’m supposed to be in a career.
Because of the change in society, we sometimes get grief we do not deserve; sometimes because people don’t understand what we do at all. They think we can just put anything and everything out there as a story and for us (with ethics) that’s not what we do unless we can verify facts. Even if you know something to be true, if it can’t be verified, it can’t be published.
As a young journalist starting out, of course, I also wanted to help change the world for the better. I thought that if the public knew what was going on with their government, they would be more educated and could participate in the community to make it better. As it turned out, it doesn’t work that way because you can’t make people be engaged. They have to want to be engaged in their community and what’s going on in it. Some are, but there are lots others who are not.
Still, I believe in journalism and community newspapers because we are writing a history of the communities we serve and years from now people can go back into the archives and see what was going on during various years. From time to time we have people come in to the office who want to look at some of the archives to look up something. When they find it, I feel a sense of pride because we did our job.
Every week there may be ups and downs but no matter what we have to try and do our jobs to the best of our abilities. We don’t always get an A but it’s not from lack of trying.
This year, we entered five items in the Georgia Press Association Awards program. In 2012 our Christmas Edition won first place. This year we have been notified that three different entries have won. We don’t know what place we’ve won but a house ad about subscription won, as did our Letters to Santa edition and our Honoring our First Responders edition. It will be the end of May at the GPA annual convention before we find out which placed where. That means three out of the five entries won something. Entries are judged against all newspapers of the same size throughout Georgia. That’s exciting and encouraging. Judges felt we were doing something right.
We were excited when we got the letter but it is also a testimony to our readers and advertisers as well. Our advertisers make this paper able to publish, as do our subscribers.
I’m the only full time employee here and think we do an outstanding job with such a small staff. I’m pleased to say they are loyal as well. I’ve been here now 12 years, Kristi has been here for five years and Linda for four. Robby our delivery man has been with me for eight years. It means a lot to keep the same staff because you become more familiar with the community the longer you are involved.
The things we know or have learned are not always pleasant or good, but there are a lot of good things as well. Sometimes you have to step back because you get bombarded with too much negativity, I recently had to take a hiatus from one meeting for a couple of times because I wanted to slap one of the councilmen for his arrogance and superior attitude. I know too much about this man and his actions just infuriated me and he thinks he knows things which he really doesn’t. He still thinks he is the smartest person in whatever room he happens to be in and that’s okay, as everyone else knows better. I have been able to go back and get over my irritation with him, thank goodness.
We have to adapt at times, which is not easy, when there is a change in staff or administration in the entities we cover. The new faces have to be retrained and you have to start over in acclimating them to what you need from them and what you expect. It’s also a balancing act to remember that friendship and work need to be separated. We don’t have much of a problem with this but the friend does at times. In this business, you have to accept the fact that your friends and enemies change on a weekly basis, depending on what’s in the paper that week. Yes, sometimes friendships suffer or are lost, but then again you wonder if they really were friends in the first place.
Those in office still think sometimes, the public doesn’t need to know certain things. We beg to differ and believe because it’s the public’s money that is being spent, they have every right to know. I have also found over the years that everything that comes out of elected officials mouths, can not be trusted, so I take nothing at face value. Seeing so much secrecy at times and striving to get to the bottom of things when officials are blocking you every way you turn, can take its toll of us at times, because we are, after all, still human.
We hope that when we do receive these three awards that you will be proud of your community newspaper as well. We don’t do it for recognition but as you know, it’s always great to be recognized and appreciated for things that you do. We look forward to finding out where these three entries placed. We are especially happy about the First Responders edition because it’s our favorite each year as we give recognition to those so deserving. We’ll let you know when we find out. Thanks to all those who support and encourage us. ©2019
VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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Proposed new deal doesn’t work

Talk of anything with the words “new deal” in them make me cringe and want to run and take cover. Studying the original new deal under President Franklin Roosevelt, you will find that it prolonged the nation’s suffering, and made the Great Depression hang around for a decade. It restricted individual liberty and crippled economic growth.
The latest proposed “new green deal” is even worse and would have much more far reaching disastrous results. Included in the deal is massive spending, more inefficient regulations and massive tax increases for the taxpayer– as much as 70% higher.
In an interview for 60 Minutes, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) said to call her a radical. Okay, not only is she an extreme radical, I would go so far as to call her nuts. I tried to read the Green Deal verbiage which is painful to do because it makes no sense at all and the numbers blow your mind.
In discussing the plan she talked about tax rates in the 60s when it was not only progressive but confiscatory. She even uses them in her argument for the deal. What she obviously doesn’t know is that President John F. Kennedy, repealed those tax rates because they not only failed to raise the revenue and held back economic growth and the resulting tax revenue. Those who taught the 1950’s era “tax fairness” should keep in mind that more than half of tax filers have no income liability and many taxpayers actually get a refund from the government. Those tax rates from that era also kept people from engaging in income increasing activities or expanding their businesses. The economy suffered.
Tax rates were lowered in the 1980s by President Ronald Reagan. This had the effect of business owners no longer figuring out how to lose money to reduce tax liability and we saw the economy booming.
AOC’s plan would rob our nation of investment capital which is necessary to produce innovations and needed revenues for funding. The plan would also rob lower-income workers of opportunities for advancement and make them more reliant on government subsidies. This would increase their overall tax burden as well.
You see where all of this is leading? Socialism, of course. This green deal is out of touch with today’s realities and the concerns of most Americans. If they didn’t act so serious about it, though she doesn’t have a real clue, it would be hilariously funny.
The Green New Deal (GND) would re-image our national economy. Proponents forget, or choose to ignore than our nation is now the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. American consumers are enjoying the economic benefits in the form of well-paid jobs and lower prices at the pump and with utility bills.
In reality, energy companies have been working on reducing their environmental footprints for years. They are on the front line of efforts to reduce carbon emissions and GND progressives would do well to partner with them, not make them into enemies with nonsense. We do not want such proposals that would set us back to the years of gas rationing and price spikes.
The GND will turn out our lights as it demands the abandonment of fossil fuel and nuclear energy production. It seeks to stop air transportation totally and supposedly create affordable public transportation. That also means doing away with farming equipment. Do you understand that would mean less available food production so less on your table?
It also requires the demolition or reconstruction of almost every standing building in the United States to be replaced with so-called energy efficient buildings. Because it bans internal combustion engines, the new structure would have to be built with hand tools. Oh, and the GND requires all jobs to become union jobs.
It’s authors know that this deal would bankrupt our nation. Some of them even admit this fact. They have no idea how to pay for this deal other than print more money and create more public debt. But you see that doesn’t make America green, it will turn our country into a Venezuela.
In this verbiage, it also mentions cow farts in the context of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector. Our forefathers are turning over in their graves.
The GND will not work. It rests on the development of new technology, a lot that doesn’t even exist yet. Fossil fuels and internal-combustion engines are banned but massive tech advances required. Such advances can’t happen with plastics and miniaturization, which can’t happen without fossil fuels and internal-combustion engines.
AOC and others have used the climate debate to incite fear into the masses. Even some scientists say it doesn’t exist. If you look at the weather across the nation this past year and compare other years, you like me, may just decide it’s a climate cycle which has existed since the earth began.
This deal calls for the closing of all overseas military bases and proposes an alternative public banking system, offers free education and provides single-payer Medicare for all. In short, the GND gives us socialized medicine, puts us in government housing, the taking over of private industries through excessive regulation (socialism) and puts the whole country into a welfare state. The United States as it is currently, would in short, cease to exist. The GND is lunacy at its finest.©2019

VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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Transparency essential

We’ve had a lot of rain this year and it has been raining as I’m writing. This week, however, in the newspaper world, is about sunshine. It’s Sunshine Week in Georgia which is about transparency in government and open records.
Government entities run on taxpayer monies and therefore, the public (taxpayers) have a right to know exactly how their money is being spent and what those governmental bodies are doing. Ultimately, most everything those bodies do, concern the taxpayer, including ordinances, applying for grants and everything in-between.
Not all bodies are forthcoming when it comes to transparency. Some will give a little information but they aren’t too keen on giving the public every detail. On the other hand, there are some who are totally transparent. At the newspaper, we judge that on how much information we receive, how they respond to questions and requests for information and the quickness of their responses. The law governs how long they have to respond if you do an open records request. We don’t always do these because we prefer to try and work with each entity on a more personal basis. But sometimes it doesn’t happen unless we get tough.
It’s pretty good in Crawford County, but could be better. Roberta City Council has seen quite an improvement in that area under the new administration. We’d give them an A for transparency.
The Crawford County School Board also gets an A and has seen improvement as well. Crawford County Board of Commissioners would get a B-. They have gone down in this area in last few years. Used to be we received pretty much what we needed without asking and if we didn’t, we got it when asked for. We don’t get a package with the agenda like in the past and though we did request that more than once, we decided it was falling on deaf ears and you do get tired of asking.
The Peach County School Board has improved under the new administration and also gets an A, as does the Peach County Board of Commissioners. Peach County BOC always goes above and beyond and there has been a dramatic improvement at the school board. Thank you Dr. Brown.
Byron City Council also gets a B- and that is pretty much how it has been for a long time there. They do send us a package with the agenda and we love the ladies at city hall who give us what they are allowed to give. City Council, however, has too many committee meetings held away from the public eye and backroom deals. Too many things are discussed by the committees that only come up for a vote without much discussion at the meetings. That means the public doesn’t know the background behind decisions which can sometimes go a long way in convincing the public it is what’s in their best interest. Requests for information are not always answered in a timely manner. As I said earlier, we usually don’t send a formal open records request and if we did they would be in violation of the law sometimes concerning time it takes to respond. But we keep working on that area. The last committee meeting we attended, the reporter was questioned as to why they were there by one councilman. That should not even be a question that is asked. We are there to protect the public’s interest and let them know what is going on with their money. We have a right to be there and shouldn’t be berated when we are able to attend the committee meetings. They are usually held on days and times when we can’t attend. We operate on a tight budget and small staff so someone to attend is not always available either, but we do what we can.
Government is to be for the people and of the people and in order for it to be and stay that way, government must be out in front of the people with transparency. Transparency should not be something where you can pick and choose which items are transparent, as all should be, but that is not always the case. If it were, I don’t think we would hear so many people complain about the various entities. The law does allow them to hold closed sessions without the public, called executive sessions, on three areas — personnel, litigation and future land acquisition. Sometimes the boards push this though and discuss other items which should be discussed in public. They think we don’t know but ultimately, somehow it gets out and back to us.
Government transparency is a battle I’ve fought for as long as I’ve been in newspaper. I’m sure it will continue to be in the years ahead. But it is your right to know and that is why we pursue it so vigilantly and you should demand it as well.
Because newspapers fight for your right to know, some entities will try and punish them in various ways, like withholding advertising. That is just foolishness but what can we say.
Just as the public has a right to know about government entities, the public has a right to know when the newspaper makes a mistake. We should own up to it and here we do when made aware of it. Mistakes do happen. I am thankful that in over 40 years I have never made a mistake which costs the community money, as happened in a nearby community.
An E-SPLOST election had to be postponed because the legal organ in another county did not publish the required notices. Not only did the paper in question not run a news story about it, the notice of what happened was run on the legal page in small type. To me, that is not being responsible and while I do not like taking another newspaper to task, when they fail to do what’s right, we must because it can in the end, effect all newspapers.
If we want to hold the government accountable, we must be accountable as well and be forthcoming to the public about our mistakes. The national mainstream media mistakes have the most effect, although, we should not be compared with them as you are not really comparing apples to apples.
Accountability is a two-way street. I pray that here we never forget that fact. Let the sun shine and support your local newspaper.©2019

VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: vsimmons54@gmail.com

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