With the hanging of the new Christmas lights along the city’s streets, a spirit of discontent has descended on our town just at the time of year when we should be filled with peace and joy.
I agree with the general feeling that the new lights are a big mistake. And one we will probably have to live with for years to come.
As a member of the Canton Downtown Development Authority, to me this is about a lot more than aesthetics. It is about the economic survival of our city.
The decision to spend $30,000 on new lights done hurriedly and with little thought on the part of the council also highlights the problems that have our city facing a precarious future.
With a council fighting among themselves and dragging city employees into the fray the situation is growing increasingly ugly.
Along with the Christmas decorations, our leaders are stringing up a host of bad decisions that put Canton in a negative light and send out the message that it is not a community in which to do business.
That is not the greeting we want to send out to the world at this time of year.
The unattractive Christmas decorations are just symptoms of a much larger problem, with the mayor and council locked in battle over staffing, finances, and city services.
The constant bickering is no present to the residents. If they are not careful they are going to get lumps of coal in their stockings.
Cities are decorated during the holidays to encourage visitors to the downtown area, to make a shopping trip pleasant and to help those out on their seasonal errands feel more in the mood.
Towns all across the country put great thought, time and care into how they decorate for the holidays to attract more visitors.
Canton has a Development Authority and is a Main Street USA town with a Main Street Board, and as far as I know neither of these boards was contacted about their opinions or input on what type, if any, of new decorations were needed.
Perhaps it was time to get new decorations. I have few facts about this situation. The general opinion seems to be that the decorations we had were attractive and made our city look festive.
Growing up here, the Christmas decorations in Canton were always a big part of the holiday season. When I was a little girl we always drove to downtown on Thanksgiving night to see the newly hung decorations strung across the city streets.
We always had a competition to see who could see them first and since I was always competitive I tried to make sure I was able to shout out that I saw them before anyone else.
Those decorations made us feel special during the holidays, the red and green lights strung festively across the street. In those days we didn’t have many traffic lights, or much traffic for that matter.
As the years ticked away new lights were purchased that hung only on the lamp posts to make sure motorists could see the traffic lights in town.
There was a lot of grumbling from locals at that time that the new lights were tacky, but like anything we got used to them and the years passed.
Then sometime in the 1990s a Christmas light bulb went off for city leaders to see about getting some more attractive decorations for the holidays in Canton.
The town had taken some hits commercially as the first strip centers and discount stores like Walmart began to crop up and Interstate 575 made traveling south for Christmas shopping easier.
Longtime stores like Kessler’s and Jones Mercantile were gone from downtown and times were tough for the remaining merchants.
The city was in a revitalization mode and new decorations seemed like the icing on the Christmas cake.
I remember a lot of thought and community input went into choosing the white snowflakes and other decorations that have lit up our holidays for all these years since.
I am not disputing it could be time for a change, but I would want to think that any large expenditure for Christmas decorations in these hard times for taxpayers and governments alike would be made with great thought and care.
Certainly the new Christmas lights have failed to accomplish getting us into the Christmas spirit.
Instead, they have most of us shaking our heads and saying “Bah, humbug.”
Rebecca Johnston is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune.