During his State of the County address this week, Chairman Charles Bannister said he was taking a "deliberately positive" tone. That's understandable after a rough 2009 that saw the county go through tough economic times, budget cuts and public uproar over tax proposals. It was such a rough year that Bannister gave a second address in September to talk about those issues.
Bannister said during Wednesday's speech that the challenges the county has faced has forced the Board of Commissioners and governments in general to rethink their roles. Like anyone who faces challenges, the chairman said he learned from them.
One thing, he said, that came from public debate over last year's millage increase is the need to involve Gwinnett residents. To that end, Engage Gwinnett a citizen group tasked with studying county government and making recommendations to the Board of Commissioners was formed after last year's midyear address. During his speech earlier this week, Bannister introduced another initiative, this one a plan to bring together leaders from local governments and colleges along with legislators, the board of education, health and business officials, community groups, and nonprofits to combat the challenges facing the county.
"I want to emphasize ... (this) is representative of a new spirit of public communication and engagement that I am determined to foster for the remainder of my time in office," Bannister said. "Sometimes those of us in elective office get so busy trying to work through the issues and problems we face that we neglect the very important task of informing and gaining input from the public about our thinking and our actions.
"That was a big part of our problem during last year's millage rate debate, and one I'm determined to fix."
Engage Gwinnett and this latest initiative are steps in that direction, a trend that needs to continue as Gwinnett moves forward in 2010.
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