City leadership must make tough calls

Published 11:54 pm Friday, September 16, 2011

When I was a child, there was a time that we had dried beans and corn bread for most of our meals. And I remember vividly watching my dad leave for his second job when he had little to no rest after his first. He delivered pizzas for a while and newspapers for a while. And he seemed to always have a side job on the weekends helping somebody with some project. We did what we had to do to get by when times were tough. We all took on a little more and gave something up that we really didn’t need.

Navigating our financial troubles meant making the tough decisions, making sacrifices and trimming what was not really needed.

When I arrived at The Demopolis Times, we were a staff of about 15 people working at a newspaper that came out five times a week.

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Then, the economy started to change.

Adapting to the economic conditions facing The Demopolis Times took a team that was willing to make the tough decisions, the ones that often were not popular. We had a staff that was larger than it needed to be. We had multiple people to do jobs that could be handled by one.

So cuts were made. Positions were cut. Inefficiencies were mitigated. Creature comforts were minimized. And, ultimately, the realization was reached that Demopolis would be better-suited with a twice weekly paper than with a daily. So, the decision of attrition was made.

None of it was easy. All of it took sacrifice. But the newspaper is operating at a level that the community can support with a number of people who can publish it.

Accomplishing that took strong leadership at the top and unselfish individuals in the right places.

Both scenarios are a microcosm of what Demopolis now faces.

It is nowhere close to making its budget. Certain departments and facilities have budgets bloated far beyond what is needed to be effective in a community this size.

It is time for the individual departments to go back over their proposed budgets and make the concessions necessary to achieve the greater good.

More importantly, it is time for city leadership to employ some vision in its fiscal decision making and find the fortitude to make the tough calls that will put the city in line with that vision.

Some things are nice to have, but they are not necessary. Most families are having to be more creative with their funds. It’s time the city follows suit.

Jeremy D. Smith is the community editor of the Demopolis Times.