All Quiet On the Dade County Front? You'd Think!

In a place like Dade County, what’s important enough to get on the front page of the newspaper? Anybody who’s ever read a small-town rag is probably answering: This is a joke, right? Because we’ve all seen those headlines— “Board of Ed Discusses Routine Matters”; “No Surprises at Commission Meeting”; and my personal, recurring fave, “Unemployment Rate Holds Steady”—that translate to: “Not a hell of a lot happened this week.” On the other hand, my question wasn’t what’s exciting but what’s important, and as a hometown hack I can tell you those aren’t always the same. A whole lot of important stuff goes quietly on in the background that enables us to delude ourselves life is tame. Roads get maintained, kids go to school, water comes out of the tap, business goes on as usual and we do not lapse into primordial chaos and eat each other. The forces that make this possible—local government, public utilities, law enforcement—gradually become so fascinating to a hometown hack, she gets to where she can suck a week’s worth of drama from a tax board meeting. The challenge has always been to present it in such a way as to keep readers awake. So I accept that what strikes me as front-page fodder is not always what the average local citizen—let’s call him Danny Dade—finds important. But this month, I’ve been floored by the vastness of that divide. Go to any forum around here and all you hear is carp carp carp about the gummint—this politician is crooked, that one inept, all local offices are overstaffed, dot dot dot. I usually disagree. I’m a great fan of local democracy generally, and of those who participate in it around here specifically. But it has not escaped me that in one county office I visit, the same genetic traits are repeated throughout so many generations of employees, the place looks like a family business. Another office is presided over by an official so mired in a massive, federally prosecuted bank fraud, it was never clear why he wasn’t indicted like the others involved. And as for the board of education— Never mind! Regardless of which complaints have been made against whom and how valid they were, qualification day for local elections rolled around this year and what happened? Nothing! Practically nobody stepped forward to challenge any of our leaders. You’d think Danny Dade was so happy with the status quo, he spends every day picking flowers and yodeling John Denver. “All day long, I’m singing, singing songs For everyone!” Me personally, I was sick with disappointment. How’s a girl to run a fledgling newspaper without candidates bitch-slapping each other at the American Legion? In 2012, Dade had multiple candidates for practically every office and packed houses at every debate. As the local newspaper writer, I was happy and busy and one week I was denounced from the podium three times. I’d never felt so alive! Well, no use pining after the glory days. Whether or not Danny Dade agrees with me, I will now tell you what I think is important. The proposed roundabout at highways 11 and 136 is important, in that probably it’s going to cause a certain amount of cussing and crying; but I had the epiphany the other day that the way Highway 11 traffic goes around the old courthouse is a roundabout of sorts itself and so far it hasn’t killed anybody. So probably we’ll survive the new one somehow, too, though for the first few days it will be fun to watch the pickup trucks with Confederate flags flying from both mirrors circling round and round like turds in a toilet while their drivers shake their fists and formulate new and interesting conspiracy theories. And speaking of the courthouse, that’s important too. Dade has beautiful woods and mountains but as for architecture we have beautiful woods and mountains. Taking away our one fairly old, fairly attractive building would mean—well! we have beautiful woods and mountains. Also, I think taxpayers should watch carefully what the Dade Industrial Development Authority is doing. The county desperately needs jobs and that’s what IDA is trying to generate by courting industries like Vanguard to move here. But when governments start handing out taxpayer money to corporations, keep your eyes peeled, my darlings! Remember that Chattanooga taxpayers recently found themselves paying out $9 million to a developer for a road to and sewage system for an exclusive golf community where they were not themselves welcome, in exchange for a few jobs as caddies or wait staff up at the Club. In Dade’s case, Georgia is the entity actually shelling out a million in cash to Vanguard for building here, but Dade is making the company a gift of 90-odd acres in addition to no taxes for 10 years, IDA itself gave a half-million dollars in roads and the city of Trenton just coughed up $100K in taxpayer funds to add to the kitty. Let’s hope it’s a good deal, but meanwhile let’s continue clutching our binoculars. And finally: THE DADE COUNTY LIBRARY IS IMPORTANT! Sorry, but sometimes a girl gets impatient when people don’t pay attention. A nice lady once asked me, hey! How come the library isn’t open every day anymore? I think she’s still holding her ears! And recently I read a sincere little story alluding to the “fact” that the library’s money troubles had been caused by the tornadoes of 2011. So I’m going to say it all one more time and those with sensitive ears may want to shield them. In fact, the library’s money problems were caused by the Dade County Board of Education, which summarily defunded it in 2012. The Board of Ed gets about 80 percent of property taxes collected in Dade County and is ostensibly in the business of promoting literacy, but it dumped its share of library funding for the much more impecunious city and county to pick up. After two years of contributing zilch, the B of E did graciously begin chipping in a pittance but it has never resumed its rightful burden and the library has never recovered. The library’s employees have soldiered on valiantly and this spring they are receiving a high honor, named as one of the three best small-town libraries in America. That award carries a cash endowment, which is just as well as the library is still being stiffed by the board of education. Which is still under the same leadership as it was in 2012, leadership that is cheerfully unchallenged in this year’s election. Well! I’ve begun spitting when I talk and must stop now. Those who think there are other important issues in Dade, start your own newspaper. It’s easy and fun! As for me, I’m going to join Danny Dade in the flower-picking department. I’m a tad overheated, and need a little John Denver therapy. Sunshine….on my shoulder….makes me happ-eee!

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