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County government meets the people

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A South Marion Citizen editorial

If you didn’t take advantage of the town hall meetings held recently at Fire Station 20 near U.S. 27 and this past Tuesday at the Freedom Public Library, then you missed a chance to see grassroots government in action.
County commissioners gathered to give reports on government and to hear the concerns of the public, and took notes as people talked about perceived problems they have encountered.
Except for one person’s rant against Hispanics, the meeting was civil and, at times, featured some humor.
That one man said he had gone up to a work crew on the side of the road and found they couldn’t speak English. He hinted that they were undocumented aliens and that the county should hire local workers.
Commission Chairman Kathy Bryant explained, twice, that any contractor doing business with the county had to use the E-Verify system, which makes sure all the workers are legitimate. “Just because they speak Spanish doesn’t mean they’re illegal,” Bryant said.
Commissioners heard complaints about land use. One man spoke out against the commercial zoning in the area of the Freedom Library, when the land was obviously being used for farming. “Bare land ought to be treated as bare land,” he said.
We have to agree with him that the entrance to the library parking lot, which used to be straightforward and simple, now involves thinking, “How do I get out of here?” It isn’t always easy.
Another speaker brought up the possible outsourcing of jobs, and Bryant said she would be glad to meet with her and explain the system and how it saves the county money.
The same lady spoke of the lack of buses on State Road 200. She also said she would not attend the Fine Arts Festival, which had been moved downtown from the McPherson complex, because of the lack of bus transportation. “I fear for the Fine Arts Festival,” she said.
As Bryant pointed out, though, the Transportation Planning Organization has done studies about buses on the Corridor and found that it is not feasible.
We recently tried to attend an event at Citizens’ Circle in downtown Ocala, the new venue at City Hall, but finally had to leave when we could not find a parking space within a decent walking distance of the venue.
Frankly, we have to agree with this lady that the city has not done itself any favors by moving events away from the square, which is now completed and reopened.
But the county commissioners did do themselves, and the residents, a favor by holding these meetings. We hope that these will become a regular feature on the calendar for our governing officials.