Speak up for what you believe

Published 10:07 am Thursday, February 11, 2016

OK, I’ve wanted to say this for a long time: If you don’t like what is going on in your locality, you should get involved. Specifically, if you don’t like what town government is doing, start going to the meetings and speak up.

Whoo, there, I said it.  You don’t know how many years I’ve had that on my chest.

I’m not one of those people who think government always gets it right, but I do believe in government.

I’ve spent enough years covering various levels of government to know that most of the people on local boards only want to do good and serve their community. I’m not saying that maybe somewhere in a recess there isn’t a dream of being president. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind being president — and I don’t even dream about running for president.

It’s just that by now I’ve probably had to sit through thousands of meetings and listen to a board struggle with providing for the greater good of the community. I’ve also spent even more hours hearing people complain about what government does wrong. Spoiler alert: There are times when government certainly does get it wrong. Then again, the only time most of us pay any attention to the workings of our government is when it’s wrong — usually horribly wrong. We forget all those times when they got it right, so we didn’t notice or care.

But I’ve also all too often seen people not really understand how government works. Too often, people want government to serve them to the exclusion of others.

Years ago, in another state, I attended a meeting where a businessman showed up to complain about needing a variance to work on his own building. The building was a historic structure that had been damaged; because of its status, the governing board had to sign off on major changes to the structure.

He called having to make the request communism. (It was the 1980s and everything that people didn’t like reminded people mostly of communism.)

Even though the board granted the variance without any discussion, he walked out in a huff. Then, a few months later, I was back at the board’s meeting, and so was he.

This time, he was there complaining about his neighbor wanting to establish a junkyard on his property. “That will hurt my property value,” I remember hearing him lament. “You can’t let him do that.”

And they didn’t — because the county had zoning ordinances.

I remember wishing that someone should have mentioned the irony to him.

Jamie Ruff is a staff reporter for The Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch. His email is jamie.ruff@kvd.com.