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If you attended Monday’s Rome City Commission meeting or watched it on the webcast, you might have suffered a flashback to the weekend storm. More specific, to the power outages triggered by that storm. You remember, sitting around for hours reading books by flashlight and surfing your smart phone, waiting for the power to finally be restored.
The highlights of the Blackout of 2020 might have been some unexpected family time, some extra trips to local restaurants, maybe even a dozen doughtnuts to go with the hot coffee Sunday morning, New Year’s diet be damned.
The start of the all-new, all-different Rome City Commission was a lot like the blackout. The two top members of the commission were elected unanimously and without opposition. No fireworks, no power, no challenges.
Bill Collins returned for a second term as Rome’s mayor. That was far different from a year ago when Collins won a 5-4 squeaker after Randy Quick flipped from supporting incumbent Jamie Doss to Collins’ side. Quick was then voted mayor pro tem.
Even with three new members on the commission this time around, Quick saw a little payback for his swing vote in 2019. Craig McDaniel was nominated by Jamie Doss to be pro tem and it was seconded in a second. There were no other candidates nominated. Once again, a unanimous vote and McDaniel was in. Quick was a one-termer.
We watched a few more minutes of the webcast, enough to see the commission retain the services of Sammy Rich as City Manager and then Rich’s resulting list of re-appointments.
At that point, we found ourselves in the same position we were in Saturday night: Just waiting for it to be over. The only difference was when it came to the commission meeting, all we had to do was close the program and go back to work.
Our excuse for doing so, of course, was wanting to be done on time in order to watch the Clemson-LSU game. We did have a family wager riding on this one: The loser buys the Mercier Orchards apple pie next time we’re in Blue Ridge (which is soon). I picked Clemson so I’m buying.
So with the anticipated post-election drama over following a general chorus of Kumbaya when it came to the mayor and pro tem votes, we now ask ourselves what’s next for the city commission. Actually, let’s get selfish – what’s next for the city of Rome?
Our guess is we’ll take it on an issue-by-issue basis. Will we see coalitions continue to form within the commission? Will we see change say, perhaps, with webcasting the city commission caucus before each commission meeting to show folks where the real votes are made?
Before someone says it can’t be done, let us remind you: Simply move the caucus to the commission meeting room. Extra cost? Well, maybe cut some the caucus food budget perhaps?
Or maybe that’s being petty.
Let’s see what issues get addressed and how those issues are addressed. For one, watch downtown. There’s still a hangover from all the parking and smoking issues of 2019. Plus there’s a brand new threat – enabled in part by the commission with a favorable TAD vote – called East Bend.
More restaurants, more retail does not mean more local spending no matter how they pitched it. We’re going to see a transfer of disposable income from one location – say downtown – to another. How will the city compensate?
And then there’s the Martha Berry clean-up we were promised during the whole urban camping mess. We’re still waiting to see the plan to clean that area up and that goes beyond a fresh coat of paint.
The continued blight there, by the way, was made very clear on social media during Saturday’s storms as people speculated about damage along Martha Berry. The running joke was whether the Cottis Inn sustained any damage – and if that was even discernable.
So now we watch and wait. We agree that overnight changes are next to impossible. Things take time and we get that.
That’d be like expecting the no. 2 team in the SEC west in the 2018 season suddenly winning the SEC championship this past season and then the national title.
I mean, that never happens, right?