MILLEDGEVILLE — Following weeks of sometimes tense discussions among local leaders and those both for and against unification, a vote Tuesday evening determined a next step.
A standing room only audience witnessed the Baldwin County Commissioners approve a resolution on the proposed draft charter for a unified government.
Whether we agree or disagree on this decision, we can all agree that county leaders weighed the issue carefully, hearing in the past few weeks from locals opposed and against unification and, as a governing body, taking in feedback from their constituents.
Members of the charting writing committee had their say before the board, as did supporters and those opposed to allowing a vote. County leaders absorbed all of these opinions and made Tuesday’s decision after listening to the people of Baldwin County.
County leaders, like their counterparts in the city, were asked to vote on whether or not to allow local citizens to decide on unification at the polls. They didn’t have to place this item on the agenda Tuesday night — but they did — because they listened to local citizens and weighed their concerns.
They conducted themselves, as board chairman Sammy Hall said upon casting the deciding vote, “on behalf of the people.” Agree or disagree with the vote, but local leaders conducting themselves in this fashion, “on behalf of the people” is a sound direction to take.
What can also be said was that everyone who turned out for Tuesday’s meeting did so because they understood what was at stake with this vote. They came because they realize a decision on city-county consolidation will tremendously impact this community.
They came, too, because they care about the future of Baldwin County.
Every citizen who came to the podium to speak on the issue did so without taking shots at differing views, expressing their own with a level of compassion and concern for the future of this community. It was a cordial exchange of opinions on a thorny and certainly complex issue.
But every issue with this great an impact should be examined from all sides, with dissenting opinions just as carefully measured as all others. The fate of unification is too important, and all sides should be heard. But too often what gets lost in this type of exchange is what is truly at stake and what is most important. It often gets lost in a sea of voices more concerned about their side winning and denigrating the other side, leaving little room to accomplish anything.
As Hall said Tuesday, “The ballot box is where changes are made.” Should unification make it to the ballot in November, and however the result, we all win because everyone has a hand in deciding the outcome.