April 25, 2016
Southern Torch (3845 articles)
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Rainsville mayor delivers 2016 State of the City address

Citizens angered that Rainsville City Council did not show up to State of the City

By Joseph M. Morgan

RAINSVILLE, Ala.—A record crowd turned out to attend the 2016 Rainsville State of the City address at the DeKalb County Schools Coliseum Thursday night.

Now in its fourth year, the event has grown annually since its introduction by Rainsville Mayor Nick Jones in 2013. Jones said hosting an annual State of the City was a commitment he made as a mayoral candidate with the intention of holding himself and the city council accountable for their actions as elected officials.

The annual State of the City report provides Rainsville citizens with an update of the overall state of the city and its finances, while also offering a candid assessment of the performance of the city government as a whole. Jones said the State of the City encourages and motivates the people of Rainsville to become more engaged and involved in city government.

“I never anticipated what a significant impact hosting a State of the City each year would have on our city in terms of operating with transparency and engaging our citizens to become more involved in our local government,” Jones said. “Preparing the address each year allows me to take a close look at the entire picture of our city government. I’m obligated not only to reflect on the the positive things we’ve accomplished, but also obliged to take a look at some of the things that we could have done differently or handled in a more efficient manner, and then learn from those things and improve.”

The event was hosted by the Rainsville Chamber of Commerce. Rainsville Chamber Director Tim Eberhart and Assistant Director Sandy Hallmark were on hand to represent the chamber and introduce Jones before he delivered his State of the City address.

In addition to the more than one hundred citizens present at Thursday night’s State of the City,  a strong media presence attended the event, including representatives from local newspapers, TV, radio, and online news outlets. The Times Journal, who co-sponsored the event, helped gather questions from the community during the week leading up to the event and Times Journal Publisher Tricia Clinton-Dunne served as moderator during the Town Hall Q & A open forum portion of the event.

Also included among the media was WVSM AM who broadcast this year’s State of the City address live on local radio.

Despite the record attendance and large media presence, noticeably absent Thursday night was the Rainsville City Council. Not a single member of the council attended this year’s State of the City. The council’s absence was clearly felt by the citizens of Rainsville, who made a number of comments during the Town Hall Q&A open forum expressing their displeasure. Comments ranged from statements of frustration and annoyance to outright condemnation, anger and even outrage at the council’s absence at this year’s State of the City address.

To make matters worse perhaps in terms of perception, was the presence of elected officials and council members from other DeKalb cities at Rainsville’s State of the City Thursday night, while Rainsville’s own council was nowhere to be found.

“It’s strange to me that I don’t see a single city council member here at all in the whole building,” one Rainsville citizen commented to the crowd. “I’ve been looking for them all night and haven’t seen them. This is an annual event. We’re concerned about our city and what’s going on here. And our elected officials that are paid to do the work of our city, and I don’t see one council member here, not a one? This only happens once a year. This should be something that’s important for everyone, something that we should all put on our calendars and make it to no matter what, especially if you are elected and paid as a city councilman to lead our city. I wouldn’t even think it would be an option for them not to be here. I had several questions that I would have liked to ask them and I don’t know how we can do that if nobody is here.”

Times Journal Publisher Tricia Clinton-Dunne, who served as a moderator for the event, said that two of the Rainsville City Councilmen told her that were working out of town and the other three council members told her that they would be attending ballgames on Thursday night instead of attending Rainsville’s 2016 State of the City.

“I will say in defense of Mr. (Councilman Brandon) Freeman in particular, he had no choice,” Clinton-Dunne said. “He wanted to be here. His boss sent him… He was very, very upset. He called me and told me that he wanted to be here but couldn’t.”

Although the council did not show, Jones was joined at the event by a number of city employees, including Rainsville Police Chief Johnny Stewart, representatives from the Rainsville Fire Department and other city department heads and employees, whom made themselves available for questions during the Town Hall Q&A session that followed the State of the City address.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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