Happy New Year. 2020 is now in the rear-view mirror, even if all that it wrought remains with us.
We normally start January in this space reflecting on our wishes for the coming year, and we’re not breaking that tradition now. But a fair bit of what we desire for 2021 is predicated on what occurred in 2020.
Here is what’s foremost on our radar.
We ended 2020 with the first doses of coronavirus vaccine getting disseminated to medical staff and the first handfuls of vulnerable nursing home and assisted living residents. There are still many of these high-priority patients who await vaccines. So our first urgent wish is to see an aggressive strategy between state and local health officials to dispatch vaccines quickly.
Once those immediate needs have been filled, we hope 2021 is full with people ready to step up and roll up a sleeve to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Doing so will speed recovery of so many facets of our lives.
Hearty Health Department
Moore County stumbled out of the gate in 2020 as the coronavirus bloomed. That stumble was due, in part, to a stilted — and stunted — public communications response by the local health department.
County officials regularly practice disaster scenarios, and coordinated public communication is part of that effort. But it was almost six months into the global pandemic locally before the Health Department and supporting county operations hit their stride.
This year might bring even a larger role for the Health Department, in terms of vaccine awareness and distribution. We cannot be timid and conservative in our approach. Our wish is that the county take this to heart and be the leader it needs to be in this time.
To that end, we wish to see the Board of Health speak more prominently by seeking new leadership for a department that has not had a new director in 35 years. We deserve a health director with vision, passion and a willingness to be out front — and upfront — with the public.
There’s no “I” in “school board,” yet the first month has certainly seen a lot of that personal pronoun coming from newly elected board member David Hensley. In less than a month since being sworn in, he has been a forceful dynamic, interjecting himself into virtually every discussion that has come his way, and even some that haven’t.
Hensley has spoken of his predecessor boards in demeaning ways, and he has already accorded little respect for the three members who did not face election in 2020.
The Board of Education faces major challenges this coming year. First and foremost, it must return normalcy to schools, and that means everything from classroom work to extracurricular activities. It also must begin implementing its redistricting plan, reach closure on the sale of surplus buildings, open two new elementary schools — and that’s not even including what will likely be a tough budget year.
To that end, we wish to see simple respect and collegiality on the board, and less crashing around and knocking stuff over just to upset the order. Debate and disagreement are one thing; discord — especially just to prove a point or achieve a political moment — is not doing “the people’s business.”
November brings municipal elections in our 11 local communities. Town and village councils are among the most important governing bodies because every decision they make impacts our lives: property taxes, roads, parks, police and fire service, water.
And yet, such elections are often marked by a stunning number of candidates who run unopposed. Our wish is to see a local election season in which each municipality with open council elections has bountiful candidates, and that they engage in the kind of campaigning that enlightens voters, rather than enraging them.