Como Commentary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Guest commentary by Margaret Porter Wilbourn
Events in Como both sadden and encourage

I have been saddened this week to hear the appalling condition of Como’s finances, and I have been even more saddened by observing the conduct of people who, out of frustration, have behaved unbecomingly.

On the other hand, it has been encouraging to see the warm outpouring of support from neighboring towns and from local citizenry who want to do more than point fingers and make accusations over, and over, and over to no useful purpose.

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Our attorney has agreed to work without pay, as have aldermen Gregory, Taylor, and Ruhl. Mayors of Sardis, Batesville, and Senatobia have offered their help.  The Smith, Phillips, Mitchell, Scott and Nowak law firm could not have been more gracious. Some people have even agreed to forego payment until the town is out of crisis.  (You know who you are.  Thanks!!!). Concerned citizens suggested that we have fundraisers, which most people didn’t take seriously, but every little bit helps. If we have more people thinking of positive solutions, we’ll solve the problem.

Sitting in the audience at two meetings this week, I have listened to snide remarks about newcomers who come in and try to take over. Instead we should welcome these people with open arms. It’s a compliment to our town that they saw the charm it possesses and chose to settle here and take an active interest in the welfare of the town.  After all, they have a sizable investment here, too.

A few years ago Paul Beaver had the courage to take a leap of faith and open Como Steak House when the town still had other businesses. For his foresight we owe him a debt of gratitude. However, the Grim Reaper was putting the last nail in Como’s coffin when Kay and Rick King came to our community with a vision of what it could be and took over the Como Steak House. They have since enriched downtown in so many ways.  Yes, they have benefited, but I commend them because they have given back so much.

In like manner Ann and Gary May and Ann’s mother Margie have done so much for Como. To Sambo and Alice McLeod, owners of The Ranch, Kay and Jim Long, owners of Blades of Grass, Beth Goudy of Paint Your Pottery, Tino and Fawn, former owners of Hope and Art, and to those people who are currently planning to open businesses, I thank you for helping a dying small town turn into a thriving community in which we can and should take pride. There are others, but I don’t know their names.

The suggestion has been made that we increase taxes. To my way of thinking that is not the best option unless it’s a food and beverage tax because taxes, once enacted, don’t go away. We are already paying through the teeth for a failing, mismanaged school system.  Many people can hardly pay their utilities, much less more taxes.

On a positive note, it was heartening to see the board finally move forward Thursday night to work things out by determining to have an audit and going from there. I have faith that they will lead us through this. Our town will be stronger for it if we work together.

I suggest that a “Save Como” fund be established at First Security Bank in Como. If it is, I intend to be the first to make a donation with a commitment to contribute a lesser amount each month for six months, at which time the account could possibly be closed.

Many people will say, “Why should I give money to a town in which funds have obviously been mismanaged?  What assurance do I have that what I give will not be squandered?”

The fund would be established by a board of both black and white concerned citizens with no ties to the board and with no board control with the assurance that funds would only be used to pay for budgeted obligations.

When Katrina hit, everyone gave generously, knowing when they did that what they gave might be misused, yet they gave anyway because the need was great. While the situation in Como isn’t of nearly the monumental proportions as Katrina, it is, nevertheless very serious.

In Bible times when the people were led astray by evil kings and the temple was laid waste as a result, temple repairs were funded by the people who were asked to give what they felt they could, and the work got done because the people had a heart to do what was right.  Why can’t we follow that example and give as we’ve prospered?

I’ve lived in Como almost 37 years and it has become dear to my heart, as it was to my deceased husband, Bob Porter, and to his father. I’m willing to make this financial commitment as a memorial to them and to every person who has ever served on the Town Board with honor and integrity. I will also make it as an investment in something worth saving.  

Hopefully our neighbors who frequent Como businesses will be willing to make donations as well to assure the future of the place where they enjoy coming to dine out.  

Like so many others, I have had my share of anger and frustration over Como’s plight, but those are destructive emotions, just as hate is.  I invite my fellow citizens to put this unpleasant history behind us, learn from it, and make a commitment to move forward in a positive way determined to work together to make Como all that it can be.