For the first time, Macon-Bibb County Commission and Bibb County Board of Education held a joint meeting to discuss shared topics that affect our entire community.

On Thursday, August 26, members of both Boards met in the Hatcher Conference Center at Middle Georgia State University. Their tables were socially distanced, but all faced each other in a square to have the much-needed conversation. Mayor Lester Miller led the meeting ahead of three big topics: subsequent tax sales/blight, Macon Violence Prevention (MVP), and a new initiative to improve literacy. No votes were taken, just a conversation between two governing bodies to work on the future of Macon-Bibb County.

Mayor Miller, who was the Board of Education President prior to being elected mayor, expressed he had been wanting to do a joint meeting for a while now.

"I've always felt like although we're separate taxing entities, if we're truly going to do the best for our whole community and bring everybody together, it's going to start with the leadership you see here tonight," said Mayor Miller.

The first item up for discussion was subsequent tax sales and blight. Mayor Miller went over the current judicial in rem process and the new proposed  process, which includes increasing the number of properties sold each month to people willing to rehabilitate them. According to the Mayor, the current program has had great success and expanding it will do much more in the effort to keep our neighborhoods clean and free of blight. You can learn more about the process here.

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"The primary goal we have is to continue to address these blighted properties. We have so many properties that have heir issues, we don't know who owns the property. This is one way to start clearing those properties and get ahead of the game," said Mayor Miller.

Another topic was the Mayor's MVP initiative, in which the District plays a major role. The Mayor provided an update to all board members on the community engagement portion of the initiative and the next steps, which include using the feedback to create a strategic plan and determine funding levels.

The final topic was literacy, which was presented by Dr. Wanda West with Central Georgia Technical College. She introduced the possibility of creating a literacy program. You can view the full presentation here.

"The state of the children in our community has a lot to do with the state of adults. So, we bring to you the idea of creating a Certified Literacy CommunityProgram through Technical College System of Georgia," said Dr. West. "We are talking about making literacy improvements a community commitment."

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Throughout the meeting, several members were given the opportunity to share their concerns, ask questions, and get answers in an effective way. It was something they had never been able to do, with both governing bodies in the same room.

"I think the more that we work together with all of the organizations that are trying to approach this issue, the better we will be," said Dr. Jones. "Meetings like this will be able to help us close some of those gaps so that we can work together."

"A thing I really appreciate about this meeting is that we're able to work together and have a more holistic approach to deal with a lot of these problems, because we can have each other's back," said Board of Education President Daryl Morton.

Mayor Miller hopes this is not the last time both boards get into a room together to have a conversation. You can watch the full meeting here.

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