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Councilor Vincent Chiravalle introduced an ordinance that calls for resurrecting the demolished county building at Ashley Pond. He believes his constituents “feel strongly about this issue” because 1,600 of them signed Richard Hannemann’s petition supporting the same.
People sign petitions for all sorts of reasons. They can feel embarrassed that they don’t know much about an issue and figure it can’t hurt to sign. Or they may actually disagree with the substance of the petition but decide it can’t hurt to bring it to a vote. Or they just want to get rid of the petitioner as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Saying, “No, I disagree with you,” isn’t always easy. I said no to Mr. Hannemann when he appeared at my door and he expressed shock that I could possibly agree with council’s decision to follow the advice of a chartered citizen’s committee.
He let me know in no uncertain terms that I was badly misguided. It wasn’t pleasant.
A few minutes earlier, my 18-year-old daughter signed the petition because she thought it was cool to exercise her prerogative as a newly registered voter. Strong feelings about the issue had nothing to do with it.
Signing a petition when someone is standing on your doorstep asking for your support is very different from casting a vote in a secret ballot. Mr. Chiravalle would have done well to ponder that difference before introducing his misguided ordinance.