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EDITORIAL: Civility, please, at local level
One of the best things about local government is that it is not the federal government.
At the borough, township or city council level, public servants don’t need to engage in the petty infighting and aversion to compromise that takes place in Congress. After all, local office-holders are neighbors.
No need for partisanship when they sit across the aisle at the local high school band concerts with neighbors from across the political aisle. They have common goals, on a smaller scale, and can work out differences for the good of their community.
Or that’s how it should be.
However, in West York some borough council members seem not to have gotten the memo about how local government is neighborly.
Take, for instance, the near-fistfight.
During a mid-April meeting, the council didn’t get past the first agenda item before it had to call an emergency recess.
Meanwhile, taxpayers were in attendance, some of whom were expected to speak regarding the collection of past-due sewer bills — you know, the business of the people.
Following the recess (which was, apparently, an “emergency”) and an hourlong closed session, apparently regarding the purchase of the vacant Grace Loucks Elementary School to house the West York police department and government offices, things got heated.
That’s when Councilman Brian Wilson accused the three council members opposing the purchase of the school of being part of a coalition with its own agenda. After exchanging expletives, two council members, according to our report, came “nose-to-nose” and had to be separated by West York Police Chief Justin Seibel.
Are we to understand that not only must we gird ourselves for what’s sure to be a doozy of a mud-slinging fest in the Toomey and McGinty campaign for Senate — and in the expected Clinton vs. Trump bid for the White House — but if we need to ask our local council about our sewer bills, well, we’d better brace ourselves in the event of a fistfight?
Just last week, West York then-Councilman Nick Laughman tendered his resignation, saying he is fed up with the drama.
Now that’s a shame. Who is going to want to get involved there? And small towns and boroughs are in desperate need of citizens to step up and participate in local government.
Passion for politics can be channeled into cooperation and can make a community a better place to live and work. That same passion can be dangerous when it becomes personally motivated and ego-driven.
Healthy debate. Thoughtful consideration. The ability to compromise (or even admit you may be wrong on an issue). These are — or should be — the cornerstones of a neighborly local government.
Advice to public servants: Those of you who don’t understand that your community wants you to be civil and put their best interest first in matters of fiscal responsiveness and responsibility may be faced with the same angry electorate with which our established national political parties are currently faced.
And that’s a fight you don’t want to have.