Just what is democracy?

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By Ralph Damiani

We have to say that we are saddened by the comments made by Councilor Ken Milder as the council voted 6-1 to exclude the public’s input on the divisive skate park issue.

We did not think that involving the public was anti-democratic. But apparently the councilor thinks so.

His comment that, “I initially thought maybe they should let it go to ballot, but then we thought it was a cop-out. I’m not inclined to let it go to ballot.”

This even after commenting that the community is divided 50-50 on the issue.

Since when is taking an issue that has split the community and letting the community decide that issue a cop-out? How can the opinion of half the community not matter?

How has the democratic process become a negative process?

We strongly disagree with the councilor here.

It is true the council can do what it wants. They are under no obligation to listen to the community. But there is a price to be paid for that attitude and we are living it today.

Honest people are being branded as anti-youth. Harsh words are being exchanged. And more and more folks feel like what they have to say does not matter.

It has been pointed out that the boards – one after another – that voted against the skate park at the library were advisory boards. And you do not have to listen to advisory boards.

But then, why bother with them? If their advice is to be disregarded at any whim, then do away with them.

There is no point in wasting anyone’s time.

Milder said people are tired of waffling. That may be true. But they are more tired of being ignored. He may get his phone calls and e-mails but we also get them here at the paper.

And we can attest to the fact that this issue has really split the community. And for what?

The fear we have is that this will manifest itself in other areas. The Municipal Building project could be hurt. The schools could be hurt. Those who feel disenfranchised will look for other places to have an impact.

Those places could be the wrong ones.

Finally, Milder said that the issue will remain a mess no matter what happens. Is that true? Is allowing the people to truly have a voice in the matter just a new mess? When did democracy become a mess?

We do not know if the skate park at the library is good or bad. We do know that accurate information about its size and cost have not been forthcoming, making a judgment difficult.

We do not know if at the end of the day this will be a good or bad thing for the community. We do know there is a terrible divide in the community that was not necessary and could have been – should have been – headed off long ago.

We do know that too many people are upset and feel cut off and we know that wounds untreated only fester.

We hope that somehow some healing can begin and that this issue can be put behind us. We hope that the site will look nice and will not destroy the beautiful library site and appeal.

We do really hope.