Mason County News
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Elected Officials Shouldn't All Agree
Wednesday, December 2, 2009 • Posted December 2, 2009

Have you ever watched the British House of Commons during debate? For all the notions we have of English civility, one would be hard pressed to find it as the heated discussions, and pointed accusations, are flying about the chamber.

If you've ever watched debate on the House or Senate floor, similar emotional discussions can be observed. The Senate tends to think of itself as the more dignified chamber; but, the House members can often become quite animated as they promote, defend or deconstruct positions and tactics.

Even our own state government, if one has ever sat in the viewing galleries, can be a source of entertainment as the elected officials share the floor and attempt to score points with those listening.

One would think that all of those folks need to take a lesson from locally elected officials who seem to get along much better. Most of the time, anyway.

Ten years of attending City, County and School meetings have taught me that there will be times when the elected bodies do not agree, and heated discussions will ensue. I have seen such meetings at all three of the local governmental proceedings, and it actually makes me feel reassured when I see such exchanges occurring.

The school board is composed of seven trustees, all elected by the voters. They choose their own presiding office who is still accountable to the electorate.

The County Court is composed of the Judge (elected by the voters), and four Commissioners representing the residents of the four precincts (elected by their respective voters).

The City Commission is composed of the Mayor (elected by the voters), and four Commissioners representing the four districts of the City (again, elected by the voters).

The idea that, on every issue and at all times, any of these groups might constantly maintain harmony, and cheerfully agree on every topic, is laughable. While there are many issues where, because of common backgrounds and lifestyles, they will agree, there should be enough differences that SOME discussion will occur.

But, on many occasions, issues pass before the elected bodies with nary a word of discussion. One or two of the elected officials may comment, with others nodding along; but, very few issues ever prompt heated debate. On the rare occasions when there were exchanges, it would usually only involve two of the elected officials trading opinions.

I wish they would become more engaged. In these meetings, though I don't like to hear folks talking just to hear themselves, I do appreciate hearing people defend their opinions (or those of their constituents who put them into office), and then discussing the merits and negatives of making their decisions.

At one recent meeting, I was able to predict the voting outcome on most of the agenda items prior to the elected body even reaching that item. Sadly, I didn't have to add any discussion on the items, as there was not discussion from the elected officials.

Our laws, particularly the Open Meetings Act, are designed to "shed light upon the governmental process." But, if the elected officials aren't really discussing the items before them, then the electorate remains in the dark on the reasoning behind many of the decisions being made. We have the right to know how the people we voted for felt about an issue, and why they voted for or against it.

It is government by the people and for the people. I'm ready to hear from some of the people.

It’s all just my opinion.

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