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We must restore our sense of self-determination

7/11/2014, 6:55 a.m.

By Gina Mangham

Now is our time to stand up for ourselves, our communities, and for what is right.

By not participating, we have allowed the political process to shape and even control our fate.

As an advocate, I refuse to believe that we are powerless. I speak with people every day that are frustrated, even cynical, but still share my belief that now more than ever, we cannot afford to let others continue to make decisions that are not in our best interests.

We must restore our innate sense of self-determination by refusing to accept politics as usual. Regardless of our perceived differences, we can certainly come together on three basic principles:

  • Unity, not division – It is incomprehensible that some of our leaders blame disagreement as an excuse for inaction. In reality, rarely does any group agree on everything.

Though we may not agree on every issue, we can, and must, respect and consider the views of all of those who have the passion and temerity to speak out. We should welcome differing opinions that lead to discourse. It is only by examining all sides of the issues that we can come to a full understanding, which can lead to some consensus.

  • Public service and servant leadership over politics – We must seek out, promote and support leaders who serve our interests and not just themselves.

Our elected officials work for us. Yet, if we do not hold them accountable, we have only ourselves to blame.

Let your elected officials know what they are doing right, as well as what you would like to happen differently.

If they are unresponsive, seek someone who is willing to be a true public servant, who will respect your vote and actually do the work. Rhetoric without solutions is meaningless.

  • Transparency, ethics and integrity – Right is right and wrong is wrong, it’s really that simple.

If an elected official breaks the rules, there must be swift and appropriate consequences in order to restore the public trust. Processes must be open and transparent.

It is time to end back-room deals where the way in which decisions are made is known only to those making them. It’s easy to do the right thing when it’s popular. But our integrity is determined by whether we stand publicly for what is right, even when we seemingly stand alone.

Now is our time to show the citizens of DeKalb and metro Atlanta that we stand for our collective good.

I am committed to continue the kind of leadership which displays integrity and a sincere desire to restore our communities to a positive reflection of all of us – a quality of life with clean, safe, stable communities where we can all enjoy our families and friends, whatever our geography or background.

DeKalb County is one of the most diverse communities in our state, which affords us a unique opportunity to show the world how we can live, work and play well together.

Will you join me?

Gina Mangham is a 24-year resident of Lithonia. She is an attorney, mediator and community advocate and is one of 21 applicants for the interim District 5 Commission seat.