One of the worst pieces of political wisdom, if it's to be called even that, is that you can't fight city hall.
Certainly, nobody is guaranteed a victory when it comes to political situations, but what makes sense about raising a flag of surrender before one even tries?
What’s the point?
Active representation by elected leaders means helping concerned residents find answers.
We suppose the equivalent advice for residents living in unincorporated areas would be "You can't fight the county courthouse." It's untrue, too.
Resistance to government action is hard and can require a heaping spoonful of persistence the likes of which few people can sustain. Government is organized -- mostly. By the time neighbors get wind that something's going on, government might have been "studying" an issue for months. Neighbors who suddenly find themselves the subject of government action are often disorganized, scrambling to motivate people toward involvement and, even more difficult, finding a common voice that can resonate with political leaders.
Sometimes, they just don't get it right, even when their concerns are worth considering.
It sounds like that's may be what happened the other day at the Washington County Planning Board. Residents of the Wedington Woods area west of Fayetteville showed up at a board meeting with concerns about a red dirt mine they believe to be preparing to open near their homes.
They were essentially told "wrong time, wrong place."
About a half-dozen people appeared at the planning board but were told at the beginning that the rumored project was not on the meeting's agenda.
"We come here today to try to get on the agenda of the Quorum Court," resident Dick Johnson said. "We feel like we deserve a place on the Quorum Court's agenda."
County attorney Brian Lester tried to help, advising them they needed to get an elected justice of the peace to put their issue on the Quorum Court's agenda or they can speak during the public comment period at Quorum Court meetings.
We've always been in favor of public comments at public meetings, Can you imagine anyone being against it? You'd be surprised in some city, county or school board settings.
It's not bad advice, but Lester's first suggestion is the stronger option. Benton and Washington counties both have 15 elected justices of the peace. They each represent a section of the county determined by population. So yes, each resident has one justice of the peace they are directly involved in electing. We suggest, however, that all 15 justices of the peace owe it to all county residents to be prepared to listen and act when an issue arises. In this case, every person concerned about the red dirt mine is a resident of the county each justice of the peace has stepped forward to represent.
Things can get dicey this time of year, right after an election. The Washington County Quorum Court, come January, will have nine new faces. That's nine of 15 spots in which incumbents are in their final days before the new arrivals are sworn in. It may be a while before the rookies have a handle on how to be a member of the Quorum Court. But they did ask for the job.
Our advice: Contact them all, starting with the incumbent but following up quickly with the newly elected member. In short, expect them to represent the residents.
That doesn't mean they'll always vote the way residents want. No vote can satisfy everyone. But good representation is more than just a vote. It's assisting residents in getting answers.
Some public officials understand that more than others, but we hope the desperate outcry of neighbors in the Wedington Woods area got the attention of county leaders willing to help. At the least -- the very least -- it shouldn't be hard to find a justice of the peace willing to place the matter on the agenda of a future meeting.
People want to be heard by their government representatives. City councils and quorum courts are about as close to "the people" as government gets. If people like those in the Wedington Woods area feel they aren't being heard by their local government, that's a shame.
Commentary on 11/13/2018
Print Headline: In search of their voice