The common good. Those three words have served as the guiding light for elected officials since the founding of our nation. The Covid-19 virus has caused us to take a hard look at what those three words mean for each of our communities. The fact is that hard, potentially contentious decision-making lies ahead for many of us.
Unless and until higher levels of government take action, local officials across Georgia will be tasked with evaluating whether to limit the number of people gathering in restaurants and bars as well as implementing curfews. These are not insignificant issues that must balance the rights of individuals with the needs of, you guessed it, the common good.
We believe that we will persevere in spite of the difficulties that we will encounter over the next few days, weeks and months. Why? Because our country was built upon the strength of our local communities and the local institutions that built them. What we do in our cities and how we approach those responsibilities are just as important, if not more so, as the actions undertaken by our brethren at the federal and state levels.
Georgia’s local officials have been thrust into a situation not of our making, but what is required of us is clear…open and transparent leadership grounded in the common good. And to provide the kind of leadership that does that, and brings clarity to the issues at hand, requires nothing more than a commitment to honesty and openness.
We encourage you to not portray a sense of individualistic bravado that ignores the reasoned and pragmatic advice of experts. Rather, what is needed is for local leaders to acknowledge the fears of those we serve by providing the type of leadership that empathizes with them, shows that we take their concerns and points of view seriously, that emphasizes the needs of others, and provides a sense of confidence that we will get through this crisis together.
Gov. Kemp has been in touch with GMA and city leaders and encourages us to provide calm leadership at the local level. He’s asked local officials to refute rumors and let their residents know the state is putting out thoughtful, practical information. He’s also encouraged local officials to continue to support local law enforcement and local responders and to support our communities’ small businesses. And more than once he’s said he’s a believer in local control and that local officials are in the best position to make decisions for their communities.
GMA will continue to work with our state and federal officials and to provide cities with as much timely information and resources as possible. Please do not hesitate to contact us with your questions and concerns. We also encourage you to not be shy in contacting officials in other cities, too, as they can provide insight and possible solutions to the issues you face in your city.
This is a unique time in our nation’s history. It is a time when we’re being asked to make decisions we never thought we’d have to make in response to a crisis we never thought we would face. It is a time of both faith and of fear. It is a time in which we must have faith to overcome our fears. This is a time for local leaders to shine…and we know you will.
This article appears in the March/April 2020 edition of Georgia’s Cities Magazine.