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Straight from the Mike…The Sage of the Farmer


It just may be time that us suburbanites give Mr. Farmer his just due. I want to offer a suggestion straight out of his Playbook.

What am I talking about? After reading about the issues surrounding the proposed agenda item by the Board of Commissioners to limit public comment, I began to reflect on the real impetus behind the plan. It no doubt stemmed from the consistent parade of tenant residents who were opining for the need for attention, more timely assistance, and an immediate response to their hue and cry, eviction diversion. More pointedly, they wanted their voice heard for a more simplified process of rent payment assistance. I can recall several of the stories. They varied little, same theme with resulting frustration, feelings of hopelessness and in some cases, tearful releases.

I can even reflect back to the tenants of Magnolia Crossing, facing near term eviction because of the decision by the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority to raze the apartments. Unfortunately, the resources offered for relocation were gant and unrealistic. At the time, I was Chair of the Austell Community Task Force. I recall a group coming to a meeting asking for our assistance, at a critical time. I will long remember the suggestion that I made to the Task Force and I got concurrence. We offered a workshop to the group on how to effectively exercise their voice before the BOC. You guessed it, taking full use of the five minutes allotted during public comment. It was stressed that in addition to the board members present, so were members of the press. The County needed to know the depths of their despair and the severity of the situation for all involved, especially the youth.  

This all served to bring to mind the way a farmer handles things, ‘down on the farm’. Each planting season, the farmer has to consider whether to continue with the same crop, the best yield, and anticipated commodity prices. A farmer that continues to plant the same crop year after year may soon discover a yield decline. Corn is a good example of a seemingly easy crop. However, over a period of time it drains the nutrients from the soil. It clearly suggests a consideration of changing crop-planting plans.

What I want to suggest here to the leaders of the housing cadre to mull over, consider what the farmer calls, the ‘law of diminishing returns’.

In public policy, it is critical to let your voice be heard. However, there does come a point where that voice may just get stuck on mute, seemingly landing on deaf ears. In this case, it could be such a wise strategy to change the game from the group/public square, to that of the one on one strategy where you get the pulse of each representative, quickly and precisely.

You see, in the world of politics, there is no purgatory. One either, at least momentarily, enjoys the fruits of heaven for whatever brief period or one is dancing like a cat on a hot tin roof and mindful of Hades, itself.

Regardless, no one issue or an array of issues of concerns should ever warrant a reduction of access to the podium of citizen power, public comment. If such action is allowed to take place by the BOC, it will only suggest once again that the Board seems more concerned to be on the speaking and visual side of their dais than for the good and welfare fruits that can be offered by listening patiently to the people, and doing so with an empathic ear versus a tin one.

The farmer, who I referred to earlier, knows that unless he takes heed to the signals coming forward, the results will quickly affect the economic success of his operation, impact the family, and even possibly jeopardize the legacy and vitality of the enterprise itself. He soon realizes that a great deal is riding on the decisions that have to be made. Similarly, but to a lesser degree, such, is the case for the BOC, on this agenda item.

Sage and wisdom, fortunately, is of unlimited supply and available to all who will listen and open their aperture. Nevertheless, it is an equal opportunity gift available not just to farmers, but to all and the community alike.

Leave the clock alone. History clearly suggests, seldom has a mistake been made by giving the people their allotted time, not limiting it.

Until next time.

Michael Murphy

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