Well, Kids, Who Picks Up The Tab?

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Mayor Ronnie had a dead battery, (or “battry,” as his granddad used to say) and had Holly Hollman start off our time together while he got a jump at his house. As always, there is a lot going on, and the first things we talked about were Grease Festival tomorrow, as well as Storytelling Festival next week. I got an update on how kids from Scotland are going to be getting on Skype with kids from our area to teach them about Scottish history — things like the castle where the crown jewels were hidden from Cromwell and other invaders.

We moved to the topic of the 6th annual Mayor’s Youth Commission just having been launched. There are close to 45 kids this year, and sadly, no homeschoolers. The schools represented were Athens High School, Athens Bible School, and Lindsay Lane Christian Academy. Because the environment, homelessness, and mental health are buzzwords, those are some of the things the kids want to work on this year, and will design projects to do their best to address those concerns.

This year, there are sets of mentor teams to lead the kids, and there are three teams. Holly Hollman and Chief Floyd Johnson have one group, Mason Matthews and Fire Chief Brian Thornton head up the second team, and Mayor Ronnie and Jerome Malone, owner of Splash of Ink Custom T-shirts, have the third.

“Jerome came up with the idea of having the kids earn points toward something special later in the year,” Holly told me. I was glad to hear it, as I know firsthand that Jerome has the heart to teach entrepreneurial skills to kids. We came to the topic of projects for the year, and one of the things that is important to them this year is homelessness and mental health.

Because people these days are so used to looking to government to be responsible for fixing social ills and then picking up the tab, the first discussion on homelessness resulted in the kids thinking that we need to build a shelter for 40. So, the tough questions began. They were asked, “Who pays for it?” “Who would run it?” “Which neighborhood should we put it in? Yours?” “If we build one for 40, what will we do when 100 people want shelter?” “Is this the responsibility of government, churches, non-profits, who?” Holly told me, “They didn’t know what to say.” She then said, “They didn’t know what to say.”

So, Holly said that Mayor Ronnie told them, “Y’all need to think about this.” They were given assignments to begin to solve the problem and have some suggestions when they meet again.

One of the other things that the Youth Commission members will be working on is to contact Limestone County about hazardous waste disposal. They have been tasked to see if grant money can be garnered in order to make it possible for citizens of the country to have consistent opportunities to safely dispose of hazardous waste.

Mayor Ronnie came and joined us for a few moments in Holly’s office, and then he had to roll. We agreed, it’s going to be a great year with our Youth, and I am going to be interested in seeing what they come up with.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner