Today is Thursday, April 17, 2014

Constructive criticism can be beneficial

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No one likes to hear criticism, which is defined as “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing” by Merriam-Webster dictionary. I get that. I don’t like being criticized.

However, I’ve never been one to shy away from constructive criticism, which dictionary.com defines as “criticism or advice that is useful and intended to help or improve something, often with an offer of possible solutions.”

Unfortunately, though, I’ve observed throughout the years that all too often people view constructive criticism as just criticism and refuse to acknowledge that ideas or suggestions for improvement have any merit.

Therefore, I hope that the Wilson County Commission will view what I have to offer today as constructive criticism, as advice intended to improve their meetings for the benefit of the general public, which technically is their boss.

At the October meeting of the Wilson County Commission, I found myself observing the meeting through the eyes of an average citizen after it was announced that the 2014 class of Leadership Wilson was in the audience.

For some reason when I heard the announcement, how I viewed the proceedings changed, and I found myself scratching my head.

Why? Because it dawned on me that unless a person attends the various committee meetings or reads the packet online or there is a discussion and/or debate on the floor, the average citizen who attends hasn’t a clue as to what is being voted on by the commission.

Currently, when the chair of the Budget Committee stands before the full commission and the public, he or she reads the resolution number and bill caption. That’s it. Here are a couple of examples from last month’s meeting.

“Resolution 13-10-19, a Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Wilson County, Tennessee to amend the budget and appropriation resolution for the 2013-2014 fiscal year to make an additional appropriation in the General Fund to other charges.”

Can you tell me what that was about? Probably not.

If, however, the following sentence had been added: “To provide $3,500 for Wilson County to advertise in the state tourism Travel Magazine,” would you have understood the resolution? More than likely.

Here’s another example. “Resolution 13-10-13, a Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Wilson County, Tennessee to amend the budget and appropriation resolution for the 2013-2014 fiscal year to make an additional appropriation to the County Mayor’s Office for Tourism.”

You might guess that it has something to do with tourism and the mayor’s office, but do you know any of the specifics? Nope.

To me, a simple sentence similar to this – “To put into the budget $99,000 to cover the salary and expenses for a tourism manager’s position to operate the Convention & Visitors Bureau within the mayor’s office” – would have informed everyone what Resolution 13-10-13 was all about.

Fortunately, this issue generated quite a bit of conversation and debate about when to start the funding, so those in the audience were informed. But what if the discussions hadn’t taken place?

After last month’s meeting, I asked Wilson County Attorney Mike Jennings if a brief explanation like those above could be given when each resolution is read. He said they could.

Mike explained that years ago when county commission meetings were televised, some members used to grand stand and drag the meetings out until 11 at night or later. He said when that stopped, the pendulum swung the other way, and things became very abbreviated to expedite the meetings.

Perhaps now, as Mike said, the pendulum needs to come back toward the middle.

I couldn’t agree more.

I also agree with some of District 8 Commissioner Frank Bush’s suggestions that he offered in the two articles published in The Wilson Post last Friday and today.

I like the idea of a simpler spreadsheet with the status of each designated fund balance updated on a monthly basis. I also like the idea of minority reports being given if a vote is not unanimous in a committee. I think it’s good idea for the full commission to hear from the other side.

And I like the idea of striving for a balanced budget for Wilson County.

As Frank said to me when as our interview was winding down: “I think the county commissioners need to remember who their bosses are. They are not the county employees or committees. Their bosses are the citizens of Wilson County, and our job is to spend their money wisely and prudently.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

And one last suggestion: learn the difference between simple criticism and constructive criticism, and never dismiss the latter without first studying it.

 

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Amelia Morrison Hipps, Wilson County Commission
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