On a Mission to Know Our Commission

By on 15 February, 2016 in City Living, Kate and Stephen with 0 Comments

montgomeryUnless you’ve been hibernating in a cave somewhere, you know that it’s election season. The national media is feverishly encouraging all of us to follow the ins and outs of polls and results in states we don’t live in (and may never have even visited). Despite our best instincts, many of us watch the so-called horse race and bewildering spectacle of candidates who may never represent us present policy proposals that might never affect us. Sadly, despite the breathless national coverage, the fact is that most of us don’t know the people who actually represent our local districts and can directly impact our everyday lives.

We were reminded of this the other day when a truck pulled up behind our car when we were driving down Decatur Street. “This is Representative Alvin Holmes,” blasted the loudspeaker, broadcasting the famous voice of one of our local state legislators. The message went on to endorse a specific candidate for a local judicial race.We were unaware of any of the candidates running for that particular office, and felt a bit sheepish that we were so disconnected from the local civic landscape.

Then, we got an email message encouraging us to attend a public town hall forum held by one of the candidates running for county commission. We didn’t end up making it over to the Bellingrath Community Center, this got us wondering: Who is our County Commissioner? And what does the County Commission even do?

The first question was easy to answer, thanks to the magic of the Internet. You can type your address into this website and it’ll tell you who represents you on the commission. For us, it’s Elton Dean, who has been serving for more than 15 years in that position. If you live in Midtown, you may have another commissioner. Our district is a long, vertical one that covers the western portion of the county, just grabbing enough from the city center to balance the population.

There are five districts total, and the County’s website tells us that:

The Montgomery County Commission’s responsibilities include control of all county public funds, adoption of an annual budget reflecting anticipated income and expenses (by law, expenditures cannot exceed revenue received). Other major areas of responsibilities include construction and maintenance of roads in the county outside the city jurisdiction, providing services for all county departments, purchasing supplies and equipment related to county operations, providing a general support function for all activities being supplied by the county such as telephone support, supply support, mail processing and distribution, and employee benefit packages.

So, basically, if it’s outside the city limits, the Commission has to deal with it. Judging from the less-than-thrilling agenda from their most recent meeting, a lot of the Commission’s work involves filling county jobs (sheriff department, etc.) and maintaining county equipment (toner cartridges are now five percent more expensive, who knew?).

All of this may seem like small potatoes compared to the glitz of the national spotlight (or even the media coverage of Montgomery’s hotly-contested most recent mayoral election), but these are services that genuinely matter to us – and not just to folks who live outside the city’s jurisdiction. It wouldn’t benefit anyone in the city if, just outside the city limits, roads went unpaved and fire trucks weren’t staffed.

The commission may also be a springboard to another elected office. Commissioner Reed Ingram was recently elected to the Alabama House of Representatives. Mayor Todd Strange is also a former commissioner. But whether it’s a springboard or not, it’s certainly a lifeline for its many employees and the folks who depend on its services. In this election season, let’s not let the bright lights of the national races distract us from what’s close to home. The Commission meets the first and third Mondays of each month, if you’d like to see a meeting yourself.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.


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