Jim Zachary: Let local leaders lead

Gov. Brian Kemp needs to let mayors be mayors and run their own cities.

Kemp continues to want to govern by suggestion rather than show strong and decisive leadership.

His suggestions regarding school openings, wearing of protective masks and avoiding gatherings are going unheeded across the state.

It could be fairly said that Kemp has gone beyond suggesting that people wear protective masks and has actually pleaded with the people of Georgia to wear masks in public.

Still, people aren't really listening.

If the governor does not want to make the difficult decisions that need to be made, then he just needs to get out of the way and let mayors, along with city and county leaders, make the best decisions for their communities.

After all, it stands to reason that local leaders know what is best in their own county or city.

Earlier this month, the Georgia Municipal Association, under the leadership of Larry Hanson, filed a legal brief defending the rights of cities to establish local policies for public buildings, city employees and residents who transact business at city offices, while protecting what's called "Home Rule."

Hanson called it "a right we believe is grounded in Georgia law and one afforded to every city." He added, "While we accept this decision is not popular with everyone, we take comfort in knowing that over 90% of city officials who voluntarily contacted GMA in response to the filing expressed strong support for this decision."

Hanson knows a lot about the importance of local decision making and what it takes to run a city after a long career as city manager in Valdosta before being elevated to run the state's municipal association.

He said about 100 of Georgia's cities decided to require those entering their city halls and public buildings to wear a face covering and said to local leaders, "You took these measures to defend the health of your valued staff and team members, who are instrumental in keeping essential services operating for your citizens -- those who are trusting and relying on you now more than ever."

Of course, all this begs the question: If it is important to protect city workers and residents entering city buildings, is it not equally important to protect everyone in the city?

Gov. Kemp will not do what governors in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia have done.

So, he needs to step aside and allow mayors, city council and county commission to protect their own communities.

CNHI Deputy National Editor Jim Zachary is editor of The Valdosta Daily Times, The Tifton Gazette and president of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

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