Last night the Bessemer City Council met and had their most productive meeting so far this year.
No, they didn't pass a budget or a Bingo ordinance or sweeping reforms.
But they did provide a positive example to impressionable young people, and that is one of the most important responsibilities an elected official has.
Students from Bessemer's New Horizon School were in attendance. New Horizon is the alternative school, where kids that have not been following the rules (or worse) are sent to get back on track.
The school principal, Edith Hunter, and officer Tate, who is at the school on a daily basis, wanted to teach the students about government and how it works.
Here are Principal Hunter and Officer Tate.
There were 8 students who volunteered to come to the meeting, and several of them had questions for the council and mayor.
The first young lady asked if we would ever have a rec center in Bessemer. Zing!
Mayor Ken Gulley took this question. He said it is still a priority for him, that as he visits other cities he notices they have youth rec centers and that the children of our city deserve to have one. He said that we (adults, city officials) have failed them in that regard.
However, he pointed out that finances do not always allow a city to do everything they want to do when they want to do it.
Then he gave his short answer.
"Yes, I will work toward that; I would definitely love to see that in our city."
Of course we've heard that from mayors as long as I've lived here, but for some reason I detect a sincerity in Gulley's words that I don't recall from past city leaders.
(Off the subject, but the Bessemer Public Building Authority was introduced at the meeting, and during pre-council it was stated that the Authority, which was created to oversee the design and construction of the new DHR building, could also do the same for another public building if the council authorized them too. Maybe a new Youth and Senior Recreation Center will be the next project assigned to the PBA. Hint, hint.)
Another student asked who enforces the law other than police. Council president Jesse Matthews and Mayor Gulley answered that citizens help the police by observing and reporting to the police when they see something going on. The council is the legislative body and makes the laws and the mayor is administrative and makes sure the laws are enforced, they said.
I couldn't hear the question asked by the third student but I think he asked why curfews only affect teenagers. I'm not 100% sure that is what was asked, but it is a good question, and the answer was that all of the city ordinances were under review and after this review and any changes in the ordinances; they will be enforced!
Bringing the students to the council meeting was officer Tate's idea. She works with the students every day, and teaches them to "play by the rules."
But her message to the students is "If you try, someone will help you." I hope the students receive that message and remember it.
The staff at New Horizon has 45 days to make a difference in the students that come to them from the other schools in the system. With people like principal Hunter and officer Tate, leading the way, they have a good chance of reaching these kids. Also in attendance at the meeting was Ms. White, a teacher at the school, who was chosen as New Horizon Teacher of the Year and Bessemer City Schools Teacher of the Year. Congratulations to Ms. White!
So these kids were exposed to a little piece of government. Who knows, last night's experience might be what inspires one or more of them to become a public servant. Looking at the kids, I couldn't tell that any of them had problems different than any other kids I know, including my own, but obviously they do. But they have a great opportunity to get back on track, and (last night at least) they were surrounded by school officials, elected officials and ordinary citizens that want to see them succeed (and graduate).
Music for the day.
This song will get you moving.
Here is Brett Dennen's new song Sydney (I'll Come Running). The album, Loverboy, will be released in April.