New Christmas lights help to illuminate problems
by Rebecca Johnston
Columnist
December 02, 2012 12:00 AM | 1923 views | 4 4 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rebecca Johnston<br>Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
Rebecca Johnston
Cherokee Tribune Managing Editor
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It’s official — the Grinch has stolen Christmas in Canton this year.

With the hanging of the new Christmas lights along the city’s streets, a spirit of discontent has descended on our town just at the time of year when we should be filled with peace and joy.

I agree with the general feeling that the new lights are a big mistake. And one we will probably have to live with for years to come.

As a member of the Canton Downtown Development Authority, to me this is about a lot more than aesthetics. It is about the economic survival of our city.

The decision to spend $30,000 on new lights done hurriedly and with little thought on the part of the council also highlights the problems that have our city facing a precarious future.

With a council fighting among themselves and dragging city employees into the fray the situation is growing increasingly ugly.

Along with the Christmas decorations, our leaders are stringing up a host of bad decisions that put Canton in a negative light and send out the message that it is not a community in which to do business.

That is not the greeting we want to send out to the world at this time of year.

The unattractive Christmas decorations are just symptoms of a much larger problem, with the mayor and council locked in battle over staffing, finances, and city services.

The constant bickering is no present to the residents. If they are not careful they are going to get lumps of coal in their stockings.

Cities are decorated during the holidays to encourage visitors to the downtown area, to make a shopping trip pleasant and to help those out on their seasonal errands feel more in the mood.

Towns all across the country put great thought, time and care into how they decorate for the holidays to attract more visitors.

Canton has a Development Authority and is a Main Street USA town with a Main Street Board, and as far as I know neither of these boards was contacted about their opinions or input on what type, if any, of new decorations were needed.

Perhaps it was time to get new decorations. I have few facts about this situation. The general opinion seems to be that the decorations we had were attractive and made our city look festive.

Growing up here, the Christmas decorations in Canton were always a big part of the holiday season. When I was a little girl we always drove to downtown on Thanksgiving night to see the newly hung decorations strung across the city streets.

We always had a competition to see who could see them first and since I was always competitive I tried to make sure I was able to shout out that I saw them before anyone else.

Those decorations made us feel special during the holidays, the red and green lights strung festively across the street. In those days we didn’t have many traffic lights, or much traffic for that matter.

As the years ticked away new lights were purchased that hung only on the lamp posts to make sure motorists could see the traffic lights in town.

There was a lot of grumbling from locals at that time that the new lights were tacky, but like anything we got used to them and the years passed.

Then sometime in the 1990s a Christmas light bulb went off for city leaders to see about getting some more attractive decorations for the holidays in Canton.

The town had taken some hits commercially as the first strip centers and discount stores like Walmart began to crop up and Interstate 575 made traveling south for Christmas shopping easier.

Longtime stores like Kessler’s and Jones Mercantile were gone from downtown and times were tough for the remaining merchants.

The city was in a revitalization mode and new decorations seemed like the icing on the Christmas cake.

I remember a lot of thought and community input went into choosing the white snowflakes and other decorations that have lit up our holidays for all these years since.

I am not disputing it could be time for a change, but I would want to think that any large expenditure for Christmas decorations in these hard times for taxpayers and governments alike would be made with great thought and care.

Certainly the new Christmas lights have failed to accomplish getting us into the Christmas spirit.

Instead, they have most of us shaking our heads and saying “Bah, humbug.”

Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.
Comments
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Jeff Brown
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December 03, 2012
I challenge you to prove that Bill Grant yells or boos at ANY council meeting. Pat and I can verify that he does not do that. Some others do but, he never has. Bill Grant has too much class for that. However, some members of council do not. I have seen many outburst by you Mr. Bryan...For example, the one where you went off on a rant about the 2 am poring and suggesting we just place a bar in City Hall. Then, the poem that you read at the last council meeting which was quite offensive and out of place. Please look at yourself before making statements about community leaders that are not deserved. Also, this is not about the Christmas lights and you still can't seem to comprehend that.
Jeff Brown
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December 03, 2012
What an excellent and well written article Rebecca. I echo your sentiment as well. Thanks for speaking up.
jp4ga
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December 02, 2012
The least they could have done was alternate the decorations. All the angels, followed by the strange stars, followed by the crazy looking tree is silly. Why not mix it up a bit instead of hanging them in groups. The candy canes on the side streets are nice, why hide them on less traveled streets?

These decorations are terrible.
Bill Bryan
|
December 02, 2012
Dear Editor,

So Rebecca you say, "It’s official — the Grinch has stolen Christmas in Canton this year". Really!? Are you serious!?

It's just a bunch of plastic light fixtures. It can be changed, swapped, and replaced. I've lost count of how many times the need to replace the Christmas lights has been discussed in Council meetings over the past 4 years. Until this week, never, not one single time ever, has any citizen mentioned to me any preference, choice, or opinion about Christmas lights.

Last January the Canton Tourism Board and the Street Department started looking at replacement lights. The old ones were just worn out; literally held together with bailing wire and duct tape. Why the Tourism Board? The Christmas light money was in their budget because selection of Christmas lights is their responsibility. Why the Street Department? Maintenance and installation of the lights is their responsibility. Together, these two bodies recommended the selections that the City Council approved.

Now the Main Street Board Chairman Bill Grant is all bent out of shape because he was not consulted. Well Bill Grant attends most Council meetings. Assuming Bill Grant actually listens at the meetings between his yelling and booing, he was well aware of the situation. If this was such a big deal to the Main Street Board, why did the Main Street Director Ginger Garrard (annual salary $42,000 of your tax dollars) not say anything?

So Rebecca, do you remember how the Grinch story ends? Just when we think all is lost, what happens? Go watch the entire thing again. Be happy.

Merry Christmas,

Bill Bryan
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