People used to go to town meetings. It use to be an interesting evening of exchanges and talk about all the angles of an issue.
Iâ€™m starting to think â€œThe Villagerâ€? is just a bigger version of â€œComings and Goingsâ€?. Perhaps, it should be renamed CPS Today. It seems to be attracted to our local ranters and ravers, giving them exposure on a weekly basis. In their most recent issue (1.26.07) there is an article on the front page entitled â€œReferendum or town meeting?â€? I have never met Mr. Steeves, who penned the article, but he must be new to town.
In the article, Gerry Ralston has a block quote purporting to explain the petition to change town regulations on referendums. He is quoted as saying, â€œAt a Town Meeting, 150 people make decisions for 7,000 people. With a referendum, at least you get about 1,500 people voting.â€? But, what Gerry Ralston fails to include is that he is one of the reasons the turn out for town meetings is so low.
I donâ€™t think anybody wants to go to a town meeting and be rudely heckled. I donâ€™t think anybody wants to go to a town meeting and endure what is essentially bullying. Perhaps, in the name of political correctness, this behavior has gone on unchallenged. Perhaps, it has been allowed because there is a lack of leadership. It doesnâ€™t matter. That it has been tolerated has only been an invitation for more of the same.
Ralston has a knack for seeing conspiracies in almost every meeting. â€œâ€¦Town Meeting was stacked by enemies of us old people,â€? said Ralston (same article in the Villager). Just who are these enemies of old people? Are we to assume that the concerns of â€˜old peopleâ€™ are more important that any other group in town? Or, that there is some concerted effort to deliberately inflict undue financial burden on â€˜old people? For Ralston and his group it generally comes down to money, though they are perfectly willing to rack up the cost of a referendum at about four grand apiece and have the rest of us pay for it.
Am I unsympathetic? No, I do understand the difficulty of being at the end of oneâ€™s years and not knowing if there will be enough left in the bank to get there. It’s not like the circumstances of the â€˜old peopleâ€™ in Woodstock are so very different than anywhere else. As a matter of fact, there are programs and options available for only our elderly exactly for that reason. Social Security, the Circuit Breaker Program, Tax Freeze and Reverse Mortgages all have minimum age requirements.
But, property owners pay property taxes. It is one of the requirements. It is just the way it works. Weâ€™ve all heard stories about people living beyond their means. I donâ€™t mean to imply that Ralston or any others of his group are living in extravagance. Itâ€™s just that paying taxes is one of the expenses of ownership, even when it is difficult. The elderly are fortunate because they have the opportunity to take advantage of these different programs.
As a society we need to maintain the health and strength of our community. That is what allows us to look out for those who are truly in difficult circumstances. Here in Woodstock, we have systematically stripped our community of the maintenance due it. Has it been result of fiscal conservatism? Has it been the result of a reasonable strategy? Has it been because we truly donâ€™t need to maintain public safety and provide an adequate education? No, I think not.
Just because someone speaks, excuse me shouts, doesnâ€™t make that person right. Allowing citizens to misbehave at meetings is a disservice to the rest of us and a sign of weak leadership. Weak leadership combined with aggressive, self-interested malcontents is leading us down the path I donâ€™t think any of us want to be on. If we want people to participate, then we should insist on an environment that allows, even encourages, participation. We shouldnâ€™t be providing a soap-box for people to abuse us and the community that houses them.
‘Constant Voter’ who has witnessed the unacceptable disruption of meetings many times.