Baldwin County has a marginal history with its garbage. Ever since the board of commissioners moved around three years ago to close the majority of the county’s convenience centers in favor of private operations of curbside trash pickup, county residents have frequently reacted in frustration. Complaints of fluctuating operating hours at the convenience centers, the inconvenience of Herbie Curbies and limited recycling options have been voiced at county commission meetings, public forums and directly to commissioners by constituents.
Recent news of the re-opening of one of the county’s most widely used convenience centers, the one located on Log Cabin Road, should be a welcomed move. The timing, however, weeks before an election within the same district as the center — is questionable.
County officials said mounting financial losses were to blame for the closure to begin with. With the county paying for trash tonnage overages and the volume of trash at the Log Cabin Center while deciding not to increase the monthly fee to residents, the county claimed it was being double billed and simply could not afford to continue. The fact that the county has faced financial challenges in recent years is no secret, and cuts have been made to lessen the impact. The convenience centers’ closure was one such budget move. This week, however, at least one resident questioned the ethics and timing of re-opening the Log Cabin center on the eve of an election within the district.
The risk of giving the appearance of impropriety should have outweighed the county’s call.
The residents of the district have waited several weeks to see the center re-opened. Waiting until after the election in an effort to eliminate any indication of tampering or impropriety would have been the correct course of action. While county commissioners never voted to close the centers, nor did they vote to re-open the Log Cabin Center, it does bring into question why this center was recently opened and others remain closed.
Voters must not be swayed either way — whether for or against the convenience center re-opening or the recent claims of ethical impropriety surrounding it. Instead, they must remain staunchly focused on what they think is best for the district in the long-term rather than the short-term. The voters of each county district up for election this year must decide how they want to see their county government in operation and the efficiency and level of transparency they wish to see, and vote accordingly.
The residents of the districts affected by all of the center closings, many who let their voices be heard by contacting their commission representative on the convenience center issue — should be just as loud now. Their voices should signal to the county that even if the recent course of events is simply questionable timing, now is the time for Baldwin County citizens to let the commission know that their votes cannot — and will not — be swayed away from the larger issues most important to them and to Baldwin County.
It is a frequent complaint at all levels of government that acting in the greater good and not for political gain is what is sorely lacking in politics today. Too often, the voices of those who do carry these convictions are muzzled behind the booming voice of the political machine. Despite these criticisms, the voice that still remains is the voice of conscience at the ballot box, and it is carried by the people.
Dangling a carrot in front of the voters is not the way to get support in any instance and on any level of government. Doing the right thing — for the right reasons for the constituents — at the right time — not because the timing is politically convenient — is.
And that’s how it should always be.