I just read yet another letter to the editor from a local elected official who says he finds it good policy to walk out of meetings when he is afraid he’ll get mad. I suppose he and those he learned it from consider it adult behavior to walk out of every uncomfortable situation because he is afraid he will lose his temper.
Is this “counting to 10,” or is it simply a way of putting your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes and chanting “nah nah nah nah” because you don’t want to listen?
People elect county-level representatives — those closest to the people — expecting them to seek opinions and alternatives on issues, weigh them equally, and come up with the best possible answer for the most possible people.
Instead, we see:
• At public meetings, rolling of eyes, those we elect engrossed in other material, or sighing to show their lack of interest.
• Ridicule of those with other opinions in newspaper letters, or even of residents at public hearings, because they are “done listening to this.”
• Increasing of fees required to contest government decisions; this punishes not only the group that has annoyed them but also has a chilling effect on any citizens group that disagrees.
My own recent experience adds another dimension to the decreasing responsiveness of our local government. I filed an information request with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office that resulted in a billing estimate of more than $500 for information about budget, training and facts other counties already list on their websites and in their annual reports. Transparent government?
Many of these same local county elected officials who are pushing away the citizens say they follow the values of the “government by the people” platform of the tea party. Yet they thwart the requests of “the people” and quell the dissent of those from whom they don’t want to hear.
Democracy is messy. Our local commissioners need to get back into the weeds and do the hard work that being close to the people requires.
Linda Norris-Waldt, a mom, small-businessperson and former journalist, writes from Middletown.