There is an ongoing story from a little town in South Carolina that has grabbed national attention for the last week.
The police chief of Latta, SC, was recently fired by the town’s mayor. After 20 years with the Latta Police Department Crystal Moore was hired to be the chief. After apparently having a spotless career as an officer Moore began receiving reprimands from Mayor Earl Bullard, specifically seven reprimands in one day. Bullard, currently in his first year as mayor, claims Moore questioned his authority and failed to maintain order. Obviously Moore disagrees as does a majority of the town of Latta. Many of the residents of Latta also believe Moore’s firing was, in part, due to her sexual orientation. Shortly after Moore’s termination a recorded phone call was released in which the person speaking, which is purportedly Bullard, went on a homophobic rant saying he would rather leave his children in the care of a confirmed alcoholic than someone whose lifestyle was questionable.
In the ensuing weeks the citizens of Latta took the only action they could to return Moore to her post. They totally restructured the Latta city government. The city held a referendum that moved the city power stricter from “mayor-strong” to “council-strong.” With a mayor-strong system the mayor, much like the president, has final veto authority. A council-strong is the system used here in American Falls in which ordinances are made by majority vote of the council.
This is the point in the column where I make the bold, clear and direct statement about my intent. This is NOT about Moore’s sexual orientation or what role it played in her firing.
The point I am emphasizing is what active participation by citizens can accomplish. The people of Latta did not like or agree with what Bullard did so they voiced that opinion. They spoke out through letters to the editor, voter initiated referendums, signs of support, all of these things you can read about by searching for the story on the internet. I feel safe in assuming the people in Latta talked about the issue a great deal individually as well. After all small towns the world over have some things in common.
Call it a ground-swell, grassroots, community activism or whatever you like. The point is there is still room for the voice of the people to be heard; a place where citizen-democracy still rules.
There will always be those state or national political topics that will affect the residents of small towns immediately like the farm bill or taxes, but there is distance between most of those things. For every law that impacts a small town resident there are several things that don’t. These are things like political scandal, urban housing initiatives. Eventually those things make their way into the rural communities, but not as quickly. Every choice made at the local level impacts nearly everyone immediately.
That is why it is so important to speak up about local events. Not just political happenings either. There is less direct influence on matters in the private sector, but public opinion still matters to companies that have to work with the people and companies around them.
I would like to be coy and sly about the specific issue I am referring to, but what good would that do?
The disagreement between ConAgra/Lamb Weston and Magnida is intimately an issue between two private companies (more specifically it is a disagreement between ConAgra/Lamb Weston and the State of Idaho), but the outcome has larger implications that will, in either direction, affect Power County, American Falls and the residents thereof for decades to come.
It may be that not every issue needs a full scale response from every citizen, but this is one of those times when the community must speak out, be counted and express an opinion.
This is the point in the column where I make a shameless plug. Avail yourself of the opinion page of this paper. Write a letter to the editor. As a reminder here is The Power County Press policy regarding letters to the editor: Letters should be kept to a 300 word limit, although some longer letters may be allowed. We reserve the right to edit, or not publish letters, if there are questions of liability or other issues. Provide name and phone number. Names may be withheld from publication, but will be provided upon request.
Letters to the editor can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can also hand deliver them to 174 Idaho Street.
Now is a good time to attend a meeting to hear for the sources exactly what the concerns each side has.
It is obvious how Latta, SC, feels about the firing of their police chief. How does American Falls and Power County feel about the Magnida project at this juncture? I am not certain and that is the point.