Jan 31 2011

A Challenge to Democracy in Piedmont

An Editorial from the Piedmont Civic Association

Democracy, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is “government in which supreme power is exercised directly by the people or by their elected representatives.”

The inappropriate comments by Council Member Jeff Wieler referring to one or more citizens as the Taliban has brought out various responses: apologies, forgiveness, attacks, justifications, excuses.  What seems to be missing in many of the responses is an interest in the right and need for citizens to inform their government and their fellow citizens. For a citizen to provide information to an elected body, can this possibly be wrong?  Can it be wrong to suggest future taxes may not be voter approved, given unacceptable governmental decisions?  Isn’t this the role of voters?

Democracy requires the active participation of its citizens.  This activity should not be ridiculed in the press.  It should not lead to intimidation.  Both our town and our country need more people to come forward and be involved.  To shame, belittle and name call undercuts the importance of citizen participation, which is at the core of democracy.

Taxes, land uses, schools, elected officials, governmental processes – all are the responsibility of citizens, and all benefit from citizen interest and involvement.  If voters do not support what their elected officials do, government needs to know this and to welcome participants at meetings to express concerns without being harassed or becoming the target of negative press reports.

In an active, working democracy, every citizen has not just the right – but the necessity – to know what their government is doing.  Every citizen has not just the right – but the obligation – to challenge policies and processes.  Every citizen has not just the right – but the need – to hear the opinions of every other citizen. The deliberative, democratic process benefits from the expression of various points of view rather than just one.  No matter how strongly individuals feel about their positions, the right of everyone to be involved and  for the government to hear a variety of views needs to be not just respected, but protected.

Poor journalism, verbal attacks by elected officials, and disregard for the opinions of others undermine our democracy.

Let’s strengthen democracy in Piedmont by listening to and considering all points of view.  It is our government.

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