Awkwardly debating an awful policy

By Matt Aiken
The Dahlonega Nugget Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Two weeks ago I opted to take a break from writing about important Snuggie-related issues to address something a little more controversial.

This was the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioner’s new petition policy. It’s a policy which demands that all citizen-submitted petitions meet a long list of stringent requirements or, if not, the submitter could face a hefty fine or up to five years in jail.

Now, by tackling such a topic I knew there would be some awkwardness. Because in essence I was criticizing the way in which five elected officials were doing their jobs.

Newspapers do this kind of thing all the time. But those big city reporters can clack away on their keyboards all day long and never have to meet up with those they criticize. Not so in Dahlonega.

In our friendly town it goes without saying that I will see every elected official I have written about by the end of the week. Most likely at Wal-Mart.

The only question is whether or not one of us will acknowledge the obvious awkwardness or completely ignore it.

Really, this kind of thing is all part of the job. But I guess my biggest concern is that such a situation will occur when I’m eating. Nothing can ruin a Moe’s burrito or a Zaxby’s chicken finger plate like a dinnertime debate. It tenses the stomach and prevents me from scarfing down the amount of food I’m truly capable of.

Well, after this particular column hit I didn’t have to wait too long for Awkward Moment # 1, as a commissioner walked into The Nugget office Tuesday morning.

I was reading over an early copy of the paper when I glanced up, spotted him and reflexively waved. He apparently wasn’t in a waving mood. Instead he shook his head.

It appeared as though we weren’t going to do the “let’s pretend nothing happened” thing.

I told hm that I stood behind what I had written. And he informed me that he, too, stood behind his decision.

“Well alright then,” I said.

Really this was only slightly awkward. I’ve had a lot worse.

One time a Jesup city councilman lashed out about a negative editorial by calling me a “good for nothing, mealy mouthed paperboy” at a meeting.

This was quite strange because I usually watch such meetings with minimal interaction with the proceedings. So it was almost like watching a television show in which one of the characters turns to you and says “You know what? I don’t particulary care for you, Matthew.”

But then here’s the secret. Coming from that guy, it was kind of a compliment. Because reporters aren’t supposed to be best friends with any and all elected officials.

That’s just unnatural. It would be like Tom hanging out with Jerry. Or the Roadrunner politely sharing his big pile of birdseed with the Coyote.

Nobody wants to see that.

We’re supposed to gobble up the birdseed and they’re supposed to try and drop a big anvil on our heads. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

So, when it comes to this numb-skulled petition regulation, the board of commissioners has given us one giant pile of birdseed to pursue.

Maybe our continued involvement will make a difference, or maybe it won’t. But you can bet we’ll be willing to generate many more awkward moments in the meantime. That’s the way it should be.

I just hope I get to finish my burrito first.

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