As God as my witness, on the evening of June 27, 2011, our duly elected village council behaved in a manner worthy of their tax-paying constituents.
An hour and fifteen minutes of “That’s an excellent idea, Commissioner,” and “Hmm, you bring up a good point” from the board members set the tone as information was exchanged, new programs were explained, and questions were asked and answered.
More than a couple of attendees were spotted pinching themselves and finally a rousing chant of “Whoopee doo! Whoopee dee! This is great for you and me!” sprung from the audience and balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling. Well, the pinching was real.
As you know, our 2011 village council got off to a startlingly rude and divisive start. But, what, exactly, has caused this divisiveness that has, in turn, trickled down to some of us folks?
The main issue among board members appears to be whether to openly discuss the town’s business at council meetings, or to breeze through votes without any discourse or explanation.
Since we’ve all studied American history and endured civics classes, it’s wacky that this is a major sticking point. I mean, who’s gonna sign this petition? “I trust my government completely, no matter who is in office. I don’t want to know what they do with my money and I just don’t care where they get their information or how they make decisions.”
Most of us don’t give a fig if the council has spirited and or angry debates as long as the exchanges revolve around our needs, not theirs.
Don’t you think that if a citizen makes the effort to attend, watch or read about government meetings they should walk away with a decent understanding of the issues?
I do, you do and so do our two newly elected commissioners Chris Harris and Tom Mannix. Harris and Mannix both believe an informed and involved citizenry is essential to a healthy village and are committed to ensure that happens.
Harris has tangled with Calderone on this issue but believes his questions are our questions, and are normal and necessary. Remembering his days in the council audience, he “found it frustrating to not have enough information to make sense of agenda items.”
He added: “In most cases, I would need to do additional research to be just decently informed on a particular issue. There are plenty of citizens who want the nuts and bolts of issues and they shouldn’t have to quit their day job to do so.”
Mannix had the same experience and reached the same conclusion. In a conversation on the pros and cons of our unique commissioner form of government, Mannix thinks “wide-ranging discussion and serious vetting of issues don’t come naturally,” although he believes both officials and the public need this information. “It is very important for residents to understand what we’re doing and why. What we don’t do well is offer pro-active and enhanced communication.”
Both said, literally: “We can do a much better job of informing our citizens.”
Both, figuratively, worked their fannies off to get elected and have hit the ground running. They spend hours each week at village hall and around town getting up to speed and have budding, but intriguing, ideas about how to enhance both their departments and village communication.
And they’re both techies. Lord knows our village website could use a re-boot which, come to think of it, would be a natural host for our new G. Orwell Press Office for Corrective Thinking.
This is all good news. We’re past the “we-can-do-this” stage because we just did it, on Monday night. It’s recorded and it’s part of our history now.