Collaboration achieves anything

When the Fulton County Board of Commissioners meets in 2015, the board makeup will be much different. As a result of redistricting and retirement, at least three of the seven seats will be occupied by new commissioners who will likely come to the table with new concerns and priorities. If I am fortunate enough to return to this position, I would offer one piece of advice to these new representatives: Collaboration is key for achieving anything.

The board will contain at least one new Republican member and one new representative from north of I-20. I expect some shift in priorities. Many priorities are shared, and those priorities are the most pressing.

All county residents care about their families’ safety. For that reason, police and fire need critical tools and manpower. Also, ongoing issues with the Fulton County Jail should remain a top priority, including efforts to eliminate overcrowding and end the ongoing lawsuit and subsequent consent decree oversight of the facility. That doesn’t mean simply looking for other places to house those awaiting trial, but working harder to ensure nonviolent offenders don’t become repeat offenders. We must continue to seek opportunities for the formerly incarcerated to transition back into society as productive members, rather than being wards of the state over and over again.

We also need to remember the county’s responsibility as a provider of services to enrich lives. Fulton’s continued support of Grady Memorial Hospital is one area where collaboration between north and south, Republican and Democrat, is absolutely essential. Grady’s trauma care is essential to the safety of us all in times of crisis. Its mission to serve our indigent population provides a critical safety net that needs protection. In combination with the Fulton health department, the county has a huge role ensuring the health of residents.

The county is a critical provider of services. We need to work together to provide these services to residents efficiently and effectively. Care needs to be provided to the seniors who built our community. Our libraries need to remain open and available to our citizens. Parks and recreation facilities need to provide activities to people of all ages. Arts programs in our county continue to enrich our lives and serve as a growing sector of our economy. We also need to redouble efforts to ensure growth in other areas so that Fulton is a regional leader.

We all need to remember these priorities when it’s time to fund them. The budget process is always difficult. Interests compete for limited dollars. The process in 2014 was especially arduous. It is the responsibility of all board members to keep government operations moving ahead. To achieve this goal, we need to approach it with a spirit of compromise. Fiscal responsibility and meeting critical needs go hand in hand and are not natural adversaries. This last goal may sound lofty, but the results are well worth the effort. Fulton County families and businesses depend on us.

John Eaves is chairman of the Fulton County Commission.

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