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Participate in Democracy

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May 5, 2010 by wcobserver

Editorial March 11, 2010

Democracy is a lot of trouble.  Despite some political rhetorical flourishes, the revolutionary idea that people should govern themselves is still an experiment; it is not a universal political fact. Half the world’s population does not live in a democracy; rather, they have a single person or small group of people running things for them.  Having a lot of people involved in government is messy.  People have to meet together in committees, commissions, and boards, discuss things, compromise, agree, reconsider, talk some more, and finally arrive collectively at a considered recommendation, oversight observation and/or, advise for the legislative branch.  Those volunteer, unelected citizens take time out of their lives to participate in a form of government they believe in.  That’s why it’s called “participatory democracy.”

West Fork has a paid staff of city employees to keep track of the utility lines, pot holes and paper work.  But like any democratic entity, it is intended to be controlled, monitored, directed and ultimately responsible to the voting, taxpaying public. It is the unpaid concerned citizens who volunteer their time and talent that make the nuts and bolts of democracy fit together in a way that serves us all.

West Fork has a 3 member Water Commission;  6 member Planning Commission; 7 member Parks Commission; 4 member Library Board; 3 member Police Commission; 2 member West Fest Committee; 6 member Finance/Personnel Committee and a 5 member Resource Recovery Center Committee.

The Library Board had its last scheduled quarterly meeting in January. The RRC Committee held its most recent monthly meeting March 6, 2010.  The Finance/Personnel Committee last met Oct. 21, 2009, The Parks Commission last met xxx. The West Fest Committee meeting information is unknown. The Police Commission last met July 9, 2007. The Water and Wastewater Commission last met Nov. 20, 2008.  The most recent regular meeting of the Planning Commission was Aug. 28, 2008.

All these government bodies contribute to the functioning of a well run city. But the Water and Wastewater Commission and the Planning Commission are particularly vital to the life of any town.  The Water and Wastewater Commission oversees the most important infrastructure component of any city-water and sewer. The superintendent of city utilities in West Fork is accountable to the Water and Wastewater Commission. The Planning Commission in most cities is second only the city council. They not only direct the type, direction and quality of growth for the city, they influence in a large way the town’s identity.  Where are business zones? How much business can be done in a residential zone? Business licenses, signs and advertising banners, sidewalks, road width, and more are all guided by the Planning Commission. In Greenland the City Council and Planning Commission members attend each other’s meetings and it’s not unusual to see someone carrying the Code Book into a meeting so action is taken in accordance with the ordinance.  

Our point? About a third of the West Forkians who volunteered to participate in overseeing the operation of West Fork aren’t participating. Our lives are always changing.  Family, work, church and social life priorities are naturally being rearranged; we each serve society based on our own capacity to serve.  But if you stepped up to serve but are no longer interested or able, we suggest you resign.  West

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