Who's Left Holding the Key?
The Hattiesburg American finally published a segment regarding the arrest of Miles Smith. Like most of the other stories regarding the November 23, 2011 arrest, they focused on the fact that he was given a key to the city. I checked Google and the story was carried by several news agencies ranging from WLBT to the Big News Network. And of course, WDAM was more than willing to publish the story; they love the golden goose of Lumberton. One commenter stated on WDAM's face book page that "Lumberton is the gift that keeps on giving . . . to WDAM." Lumberton is ratings gold for that news station. Right after the arrest, the newsfeed popped up on WDAM's face book page and the only point they were interested in covering was the fact that Miles Smith had been given a key to the city. I called News 7 regarding the story and I was given three different versions of the story but the ones working the news desk during the Thanksgiving holiday was not interested in knowing that the board of aldermen voted to re-zone land for the training school that is going to be ran by Smith and they're weren't interested in any information about the fact that the City of Lumberton had sold a privilege license to this business.
The main issue surrounding the arrest of Smith was totally overlooked. At no point did the news report anything about the large crowd of people that surrounded the building, filling out applications and trying to get a job. Nothing was said that this type of thing didn't happen when the City of Lumberton had a planning and zoning committee. Earlier this month, Cora Rogers, owner of Roger's Childcare, asked each board to explain why they voted to disband the planning and zoning committee and Timothy Johnson told her that the special call meeting was not the proper forum for addressing that question. Hopefully, Mrs. Rogers will be at the next board meeting and ask them the same question and maybe the regular board meeting would be the proper forum for the question.
Although they refused to answer any questions regarding their decision to disband the planning and zoning committee at the last board meeting, Bobby Gibson and Timothy Johnson did say that felt the planning and zoning committee wasn't necessary because they are too troublesome for potential business owners. I guess they're probably rethinking that statement, but since none of this was covered in any of the news stories regarding the arrest of Smith, I guess they feel that they have gotten away again.
Another comment that was frequently used on WDAM's face book page was in reference to background checks. For the record, this board does not check the background of anyone coming into this city; they just take them or the department head recommending them at their word. For instance, there's a father and daughter team that came to the board to ask for a lease on the old hospital and the board never said anything about a background check. It's time for the members of the board to get off their duff and make some phone calls and check on some of these people that are being released into the city. If a department head recommends a person, then take a week or two to check on that person or to at least do a Google search. Get on the phone with that person's last employer and ask some tough questions. But the members of the board don't care enough about this city to spend their precious time to find out about the people they're voting to hire or re-zone land for.
In closing, I would like to talk about the Key to the City. The practice of presenting a key to an individual can be traced back to medieval times, when admission into a city was hampered by many legal restrictions, as well as by walls and locked gates. The key symbolized free entry. The act of giving the Key of the City is SYMBOLIC, since the city has no gates to unlock. Today, the presentation honors civic contributions of the recipients or simply to congratulate a person for their interest in opening a business. By the middle 1800's, it became customary to give a key to the City as a direct symbol of the city's intention that the recipient is as free to come and go at will (unless they have a pending warrant).