The American form of government was formed so that the average citizen could be a part of the decision making in their own affairs, even if it was in a sort of proxy way. That proxy vote is called a republic, or a form of government where representatives elected by the people, or power given by the people do the governments work. Our republic is based largely on majority rule, yet there are limitations as to what the majority can do to a minority in our form of rule. There are rights that every citizen has regardless of her or his stature in our society,
A number of times a week I watch that process taking place as city representatives, county commissioners and elected board members make decisions that affect everyone who lives in our county and even those who just pass through it.
It's my job to attend those meetings and report in this newspaper the business of the people. Sometimes the meetings are well attended by the public, other times they are not. When there are a large number of people in the audience, it usually indicates there is an item which is either controversial or a an issue a group of people have strong feeling about.
Just such a meeting took place in the county commission chambers last Wednesday evening. It was over a zoning issue and the room had a lot of people who wanted to speak to the issue. A great many wanted the commissioners to turn down the request because of what they felt were inadequate access and egress routes from a housing development. A few spoke for the zoning request.
A spirited, but very civil debate took place, with both sides speaking to the commission and to each other with great respect. For some people the issue was infrastructure development, while for others the issue was growth.
In the end the commissioners decided to grant the request, but promised to look at the road problems that are plaguing the area where the development is located. Some people were not very happy, others were pleased. But for the most part I think that most people were not interested in stopping the developer from putting in more houses, but were more concerned that the commissioners realize their grievances and address those issues.
That night was a lesson in civics; one that could have been educational for anyone. I saw an elected body (county commission) listen to grass roots input on a possible decision ( local residents) and then make a decision that protected a minority (the developer) while taking into account the concerns of the majority.
I often have people say to me "How can you stand to attend all those boring meetings?" Personally I find it to be just the opposite.. Sure there are times when some issues are mundane. Some items on agendas are much more drawn out than they need to be. Sometimes someone speaks that puts almost everyone in the room to sleep.
But what makes them exciting and interesting, and yes, even fun at times, is that what these people are talking about and taking action on is important to someone in our community and often, everyone in the county. The stories and the drama that takes place, sometimes even over securing a simple business license, can surpass any venue on television. It is true reality TV without the advertisements.
It would be good if even just once a year, every citizen took a couple of hours and went to some type of public meeting just to see how their government works. It would make us all better stewards of our way of life.