It’s been a joy reaching out to city clerks across DeKalb County since qualifying for municipal elections started. I want to do a better job of building those relationships and keeping a closer ear to what’s happening across our readership area.

It’s not good if the only time you hear from a reporter is when there’s some scandal. I personally don’t want to hear dread in anyone’s voice when I tell them who I am on a phone call or seem like some sort of vulture circling. Your news tips are very important to us. Please help keep us “in the know.”

It’s a rough time to be in “the media” because so much talk dismisses what’s written as “fake news”. I try not to take that personally, but sometimes it’s like hearing women tell their #metoo anecdotes and resisting the urge to mansplain about exceptions.

I commiserate with police officers who take offense to being called racist. That’s not fair and it can’t be easy going out and doing a job where people act rude and lie. Being disrespectful of the state trooper who pulled me over for speeding rarely convinces him to let me off with a warning.

I think the majority of journalists and police officers just want to do our jobs and keep people honest.

Journalists play an oversight role for public officials. We understandably don’t like it when matters aren’t transparent because if some policy can’t withstand public scrutiny, there’s probably something rotten going on. Sometimes a “cover-up” is just something embarrassing, and we recognize that they’re imperfect human beings.

My hope is that I can make their jobs easier, not harder, by helping them communicate why something needs done, why tax dollars should be invested and explaining how citizens should proceed so the folks at city hall don’t have to repeat themselves over and over to different visitors.

For this election cycle, several cities and towns raised the pay of the next mayor and council. February 25 was the deadline to do so, which preceded the arrival of the coronavirus. The economy was in good shape then, and some municipalities had not raised pay since the mid-1980s, so don’t get too steamed about it if you read this happened. Spending a little more is a good investment if it incentivizes public service vs the more-lucrative private sector.

Fresh faces and competitive races can bring out the best in people. Incumbents may be doing a fantastic job, but it’s still exciting to have a lot of interest in making our communities even better and hearing new ideas.

The public rarely sees just how hard their officials work. They don’t see the long work sessions to educate themselves about public matters (some of which are about as exciting as watching paint dry) or the many hours spent talking to constituents on the phone and answering emails, some of them very angry and rude.

Leadership sometimes means choosing winners and losers or cracking down on folks who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. It’s gotta be awkward running into someone at the grocery store whose proposal you voted against, possibly costing them money. Now you have to go ask people to let you keep your job while that person is out bad-mouthing you.

How’s about we hold their feet to the fire on public matters but go a little easier on them as human beings?

There’s so much agitation right now. It makes me worry about people getting hurt just because they disagree over something that isn’t worth dying over or going to jail for a long time.

During a pandemic, loitering at Walmart to “press the flesh” with constituents is not a good idea. They have to find different ways to ask for your vote and discover what’s important. I can only speak for myself, but I ain’t opening my door if strangers come a knockin’ or if they try to out-do each other by littering my street with obnoxious signs.

I encourage the candidates to speak to voters via the newspaper through advertising and coverage of the upcoming elections. And I hope those of you reading this will take advantage of the public forum we provide by writing a Letter to the Editor. You know, you can hit the “send” button on an email just as easily as you can hit the “post” button on Facebook.

— Steven Stiefel is a staff writer at the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: steven.stiefel@times-journal.com.

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