Government actions fuel cynicism, apathy
Officials wonder why the seats are empty during council meetings. They wonder why people don’t volunteer to get involved in the public process. They look at low voting numbers and cry, “Apathy.”
But if you’re looking for the source of that apathy ” or, more accurately, frustration ” you need look no further than the recent action of the Winter Park Town Council and Fraser Board of Trustees.
After more than a year of asking for public input and hosting forums where people were given a chance to voice their concerns ” the leadership of the two towns met in a bar and decided informally not to move forward with the merger of Winter Park and Fraser.
The “workshop” meeting was posted on the bulletin board of the two town halls, according to the town managers of each, but it wasn’t heavily publicized. (We are embarrassed to admit, we didn’t know about it until two weeks after the fact.)
There wasn’t a large effort to get the public involved in this conversation and there was no effort afterward to get the message out to the public about the change of heart.
Fundamentally, the leaders did nothing wrong by meeting for a workshop to honestly discuss the future merger of the two towns.
But not bringing it up later at a town board meeting for public discussion and vote was, at best, bad politics.
We are confused by the two towns’ decision to initially involve the community in the discussion and then drop the issue without involving, or at the very least informing, the community.
This is not a legal issue, or even a procedural issue. It’s an issue of respect.
When the newspaper called the town managers 16 days after the two boards reached their barroom consensus, our reporter was told that a press release would be issued in the coming days. When she pressed the issue, believing too much time had already passed and it was time to inform the public ” she was scolded and told to sit on the story until the press release was complete.
We are left wondering ” the next time around, what will be the incentive for people to get involved in the public process?
What messages are our town leaders sending by dropping a process that has been very public until now ” without any public input?
If you want the public’s involvement, at least honor their effort when decisions are made.
Making decisions in barrooms not only fuels the worst of rumors, it fuels the feeling among voters that their time and opinions mean little.
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