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Communities should take interest in citizenship

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Nine young men filed quietly into the Williamstown City Council meeting on Nov. 2.

They took their seats and focused intently on the people seated behind the raised, wooden platform.

Several of the boys’ parents also came to the meeting and sat a few rows behind their children.

The group, Cub Scout Pack 318, lead by Roy Osborne, were working on their Citizenship Patch. To earn it, they came and spent some time learning how their government works.

The meeting opened, as it always does with the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the business at hand.

They heard discussion of bridge repairs, sewer and water projects, as well as budget woes and needs of the city.

As I watched the group, who were polite and respectful during the meeting, it occurred to me that everyone should have to attend a public meeting or two to get their citizenship patch.

My staff and I attend as many public meetings during the month that we can and usually we’re one of the few in the audience.

I know it’s our job to cover these meetings and that’s why we do, so that we can give our readers news from these meeting because it’s what a newspaper is supposed to to.

Sometimes the meetings are long and sometimes they are boring. Sometimes the discussion is lively and heated. Sometimes there is hardly any discussion at all.

But the one thing that each of these meetings, whether it be city council, fiscal court, school board or planning and zoning or even the water district, have in common is that the decisions these people make impact our daily lives.

There’s a growing movement in this country encouraging citizens to get involved in government because those in elected position are spending too much or proposing health care options you don’t like or they said “holiday tree” instead of “Christmas tree.” I’m glad people are concerned about the issues and willing to march, protest, etc.

I’ve always been interested in politics, so I think it’s great anytime citizens get involved.

I believe the Founding Fathers wanted the average citizen to be able to march on Washington if he or she wanted to protest governmental actions or inaction. We witnessed several Tea Parties held earlier this year on the courthouse lawn that were in protest of the way Washington is spending tax dollars.

I think citizens have every right to hold those rallies if they choose to, but what I can’t figure out is that why most people don’t start their march at the steps of city hall or at the courthouse to show local officials whose decisions impact our everyday lives that they are being watched.

It’s great to be part of a national movement and I applaud those citizens for getting involved, but it’s the local scene or the grassroots if you will where an impact can be felt immediately.

Next year is an election year. Every office for county and city government will be up for grabs. Wouldn’t it be something to see the ballots full of candidates and for 85 percent of the registered voters in Grant County to go to the polls?

There’s an old adage that if you’d don’t hear anything, then everything must be OK and I believe that to an extent, but as I’m out in the community, I hear people voicing displeasure with this or that local decision and yet, I never see these people at a meeting actually voicing their concern to the people who need to hear it.

Maybe if every man, woman and child were required to attend some local meetings, then everyone would be wearing the good citizen patch.

(Jamie Baker-Nantz is the editor of the Grant County News. She can be reached at 824-3343 or by e-mail at jbakernantz@grantky.com.)