Bennett: Niles government refuses to rock the boatPublished 4:50pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012
There is trouble in Leaderland. That’s old news, of course, and, as I travel all of the corners of our fine land, it seems there just may be more trouble in the area of our largest population, Niles.
Newly elected Berrien County Commissioner John Klimek (Niles) stopped into our office yesterday to coordinate a new column he will be writing in the Niles Daily Star beginning in January. It was my first opportunity to chat with John. He discussed at length all our county and area have to offer along with the untapped potential. Part of his lament is that for years we have squandered opportunities.
I told John that what he is telling me is a common theme I have heard. When I speak privately to business leaders, educators and just the general population, there seems to be a common thread. There is the sense local government has no desire to rock the boat. And from the public sector, there is a sense of hopelessness that individuals cannot make a difference, especially in Niles. There seems to be a disconnect between local government and the community at large.
Here is a small personal experience I can share.
Months ago after a Four Flags Chamber board meeting, I offered Niles city administrator Ric Huff a column in the Daily Star. He appeared a bit suspicious of my intent. When I explained to him that I simply would like him or a representative to provide a firsthand view of what is happening within the city, he told me that he may be interested.
Months went by and I hadn’t seen or heard from Ric, so about a month ago I sent him along with Mayor Mike McCauslin an e-mail inviting the city once again to talk to you through a column within the Star. The mayor responded positively although still nothing has materialized.
Look for me at the Jan. 7 city council meeting when I provide a public invitation.
When I look at other Leaderland communities, things do seem a little brighter.
Dowagiac government seems to have a good working bond with its community. The positive changes it has made to the downtown are evident. While it seems to be a bumpier road, the results also seem positive in downtown Buchanan. Poor Edwardsburg does not have a true downtown, although the Greater Niles Federal Credit Union office building that opened in September was a positive addition.
On Monday, I was elected to be the upcoming vice president of the Rotary Club Niles-Buchanan. In my role, I hope to utilize some of the great leadership in the club to work with other citizens to promote positive change and growth in our communities. If you have what it takes, I invite you to sample Rotary here or Dowagiac or any of the other great services in the community. Together, we will bring about positive change in Niles and help build better community throughout Leaderland.