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Outsiders Get Foot in the Door

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July 13, 2014 by Steve Winkler

–Washington County Observer Editorial–

The July city council meeting didn’t produce a sea change but there may have been, maybe, possibly a slight change in the breeze.

Victory is way too strong a word, but opposition group momentum was evident at the meeting when three policy issues were addressed.  It was a welcome change.

Ward 3 alderman Shane Donahue moved out to the city several months ago but didn’t resign his seat.  The only elected official who expressed interest in the matter was the newly appointed Ward 1 alderman, Don Rollins who has had ongoing dialogue with opposition group members on social media. He is the only council member who does this.

Rollins brought the Donahue issue before the council and it was decided to write a letter to Mr. Donahue requesting his resignation and possibly declaring the seat vacant next month.

On another issue, former city clerk Susan Cooney, through presentations to the council and on social media has tried to persuade the council to adopt a policy requiring an elected city official to be a signer on all city checks. Such a policy would help insure citizen/taxpayer oversight of city financial duties.  At July’s council, Mayor Rossetti announced the implementation of such a policy.

Another opposition group activist has in recent months, undertaken an in-depth review of financial transactions by way of the  invoices and payments surrounding the separation of  city finances from autonomous water commission expenditures following scrutiny by  environmental regulators.  The mayor suggested the city “clean up” the procedure for “checks signed…receiving goods…signatures on invoices as they come in.” We agree with the mayor on this one; accuracy and attention to detail is a good idea when handling the taxpayer’s money.

For democracy to flourish there must be an opposing viewpoint. Reasoned argument then informs action.  In partisan politics we see this happening in the wrangling between Republicans and Democrats.  As the parties alternate control of the government, it is the out-of-power party that challenges the incumbents on policy and action. Both factions have the best interest of the people in mind. They both want better government but differ on the path to get there.  It is the “loyal opposition” at any level of government, or any organization for that matter, that deters the slide into corruption, dictatorship and eventual extinction.

In municipal government’s nonpartisan system, the incumbent group and opposition group are more informal but, none the less, real. In West Fork, since the 2012 election when the opposition group garnered a two thirds vote to dissolve the autonomous water commission, the opposition has become more vocal. The incumbent group; seven council members, the mayor and city “elders” opposed and refused to honor the people’s instructions,  perhaps fueling the opposition’s determination to make their voice heard.

Hopefully these voices of opposition will become crisper and louder at the November election.

Steve Winkler

Steve Winkler is the publisher and editor of the Observer. Email him at steve@wcobserver.com

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