Beyond the Byline: Get involved, but behave

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Bill O’Boyle Bill O’Boyle -

WILKES-BARRE — The swearings-in are complete, let’s hope the swearings-at do not commence.

As all local municipalities prepare to go about the business of making their communities better, now is not the time for raucous, disrespectful, adversarial confrontations between elected officials and members of the taxpaying public.

Actually, no time should be spent on those public displays of irreverent name-calling and accusatory assaults.

Political differences aside, public meetings should be focused exclusively on “the good of the order.” Everybody, despite their particular political differences — and there are plenty out there today — who attends meetings of borough councils, board of supervisors/commissioners and all others needs to behave with decorum.

Nothing will ever get accomplished in an atmosphere of name-calling, yelling and utter disrespect.

If you have questions about what is or isn’t happening in your town, do your homework. Then go to the meeting and ask your questions and then allow the elected officials to respond. Perhaps a couple of follow-up questions and responses and you will have an interaction aimed at getting whatever the issue is resolved.

Most residents don’t attend meetings. Even fewer dare to ask questions. The media tries to cover as many places as possible, but there are just too many.

Enter social media. In Plymouth, for example, one resident — Mary Jarrett — attends the meetings and transcribes all that happens at her town’s council meetings. She then posts it on Facebook so that others can read it and, perhaps, not just get informed, but maybe get involved.

Jarrett is to be commended for what she does. Her example should be emulated in all towns. She has found a way to let her fellow residents know what is going on and what the elected officials are saying and voting on every month.

And that is good. We live in a technologically-connected world, yet it seems we remain somewhat uniformed about what goes on in the places where we live.

The easy approach is to just sit back and exist in a vacuum and not care about what is happening next door, down the street, in our schools, or beyond. Or, you can get involved. Attend meetings, even if you just go to hear and see what is going on. Join community groups, listen to the discussion and don’t be afraid to express yourself — your opinion does matter.

And to all those elected officials out there, be receptive to constructive criticism. Be willing to answer questions from the public. Make every effort to explain why decisions are being made. Everybody can learn a lot just by listening and taking the time to weigh all matters before deciding. Let the sun shine in and be “transparent.”

It’s not a perfect world, but it has been proven that progress can be found when debate is welcome. Just ask our Founding Fathers. Opposing views can sometimes lead to better results. Rubber-stamping everything is not the best way to operate.

Ignorance and apathy have plagued our political process for years now — the “I don’t know and I don’t care” attitude. Yet we go about election after election voting for candidates we know little, if anything, about. What makes matters worse, is we don’t really know where we can go to get accurate information on the candidates — it’s that whole “fake news” thing.

Yes, the media is to be partially to blame here. There is way too much bias in just about every news story, electronic or print, that inflicts opinion on the listener/reader. Most people are quite capable of forming their own opinions if given accurate information to weigh. Social media, especially, is an open forum for people to post “information” that is not only less than accurate, it’s many times manufactured.

So how do we wade through this murky sea of misinformation? We get involved. We attend meetings. We listen. We ask. We ponder. And we decide.

And that simple process must be allowed to exist — to be welcome — every time we walk into a council chamber, or a board room, or a municipal town hall.

Our opinions really do count. So do the opinions of those who disagree with us.

Listen, speak, ask, answer, decide.

Help improve your neighborhood, your town, your county, your state, your nation.

Bill O’Boyle O’Boyle

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or call 570-991-6118.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or call 570-991-6118.