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I am not well-behaved enough to keep my opinions to myself

By Karen E Crowell
Posted Friday, July 1, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - Pistole made comments on the Chatham Chatlist about the recent Chatham County board of commissioners decision to cancel any further discussion of the budget, by saying:

"I'm not sure how anyone who looks at the situation objectively could be outraged. The budget has been discussed for several months, objectives given to county departments, and public input sought in a number of formats. Spending was reduced and core functions of government were given priority. Any calls for outrage by citizens is only playing to emotion and not facts. Brian Bock, Pam Stewart, and Walter Petty have done exactly what they campaigned on in 2010. The majority of Chatham County supports them, despite the perception that a few on the far left wish to create. If these three did not have the support of the county, all three would not have been elected."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the current majority on the Board of Commissioners won their seats by a very slim margin. They did not win approval from the "vast majority" of Chatham County voters. Nor do they represent all of us. And they seem to have forgotten that there are five elected officials on the board.

Brian Bock, Walter Petty and Pam Stewart, who themselves had very little experience to guide them, could have made good use of the experience that Kost and Cross had as continuing members of the board. Instead, they ignored them. The recent board meeting was perhaps the most grievous example. Sally Kost and Mike Cross were not even informed of the rest of the board members' intentions to end discussions on the budget. Did Bock, Steward and Petty somehow think that this wasn't something that all the board members might want to know about, at the very least, or have a say in?

We're told that Sally Kost behaved badly by expressing her outrage. She wasn't being objective, I guess, according to Pistole. She wasn't paying attention to the facts. No, I'm sorry, but I have to disagree. Kost was outraged because she hadn't been TOLD the facts - that Bock, Steward and Petty had no intention of discussing the budget. I would have been outraged, too!

According to Donna Kelly, instead of "creating spectacles at public meetings," well-behaved citizens are supposed to "go back to living their own lives and trusting their representatives to do their jobs based on the principles they expressed during the campaign."

It's all well and good that some people have great confidence in their elected officials. But citizens' responsibilities in a democracy do not end at the polls. And elected officials should not feel obligated to fulfill only the expectations of people who voted for them. They should know how to build consensus. They should be willing to listen to opposing views and take them into consideration in making decisions.

Kelly worries that "it may appear there are more opponents of the new board than supporters by the attendance at BOC meetings." Apparently, in Chatham County, too many people with opposing views chose to air them in public input sessions. Not just "a few on the far left."

So what's a novice commissioner to do? You certainly don't want to run the risk of letting even more opposing views be heard. Or deal with any more embarrassing public exhibits of protest. Forget about open government. Forget about paying attention to what the people want. Just be done with it. Show them who's boss. Call a vote.

You'll win.

As for the rest of us? Just go home and be good little citizens and keep your opinions to yourself.

I am Karen Crowell, who is not well-behaved enough to keep her opinions to herself. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. The same is true for citizens.

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I am not well-behaved enough to keep my opinions to myself

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