Opinion: Get involved instead of throwing stones

By: 
STEVE ROGERS
Staff Writer

I know West Point Selectmen Ken Poole and Leta Turner are well-intentioned. That comes through in many of their conversations and questions they ask during meetings.

But at other times, they act and sound like the novices they are. Even worse, they sometimes showboat just for the sake of showboating.

Thursday night, they obviously were posturing for the public. Politicians do that far too often.

But only about five people were there outside of department heads and one of those was selling the city insurance. And another was running the sound system. I was one.

So their posturing did little good other than to give them something to talk about on social media.

Both Poole and Turner are in their first year on the Board of Selectmen. They have earned the right to represent their wards by winning hard-fought elections.

But that doesn’t come with any special privileges or treatment. They don’t get special notices of meetings any different than anyone else on the board. They don’t get special favors in their districts. They don’t get coddled or babied.

Both tried to suggest Thursday night they hadn’t been given a chance to be involved in the budget process. They sounded as if they had been the victim of some kind of conspiracy to deprive them of information or input.

It didn’t matter that they received a copy of the budget on June 11 and could have asked questions, met with Finance Committee members Jasper Pittman or Keith McBrayer or Mayor Robbie Robinson at any point to go over the numbers.

They could have read any of the two or three stories published by this newspaper in the last couple of weeks talking about what’s in the budget.

Even more, they could have inquired about or attended any of the numerous meetings with department heads that went into crafting the budget. They could have called or asked or dropped by City Hall anytime at any point to inquire about the process or information.

They did none of the above.

They continued their grandstanding by trying to revamp the rules to make the entire Board of Selectmen the same as the Finance Committee.

Trust me, that’s a logistical nightmare. Columbus tried it for a couple of years not too long ago and found the process was cumbersome, unwieldy and inefficient. In the end, the budget process still boiled down to the mayor, city administrator and finance director pouring over the numbers in mind-numbing sessions with department heads to put together a budget, that then was reviewed by a committee of Council members or the entire board if it wanted.

At any point, any member who wants information or wants to get involved only has to reach out and ask.

Again, Poole and Turner earned the right to represent their constituents. But what they earn beyond that requires work and effort. You earn respect and cooperation, it doesn’t just come with a seat at the table.

People are going to disagree and have different views on issues. So voting “no” isn’t a bad thing. But to vote “no” because you have been involved and still don’t like the majority’s opinion is one thing. That’s representative democracy.

But to vote “no” just to be a contrarian without having made an effort to participate is more about pettiness than leadership.

They would better serve the people they represent by realizing they are novices and make more of an effort to learn how things work and to give back rather than simply whining about not being involved or not getting their way.

By showboating, they make a few points with a few people. At the same time, they turn off dozens of others.

I hope they will grow into the leaders they have the ability to be.

The list of issues and decisions is only going to get larger, longer and more difficult. Poole is right to ask about a capital improvement infrastructure program. The Board will have to discuss a new radio system later this fall. There always will be more priorities than there is money.

For Poole and Turner, continuing to throw stones from the sidelines won’t benefit them or the community.

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