Written by Andrew Speer ~ Polson
Responsible government is conscientious representation of the people—all people. Citizens have a right to know what their government does, how decisions are made, and how to make their voices heard. However, in Polson, only certain people are heard. For others, there seems to be an effort to silence voices.
The mayor described those opposed to the city’s partnership with the Orton Family Foundation as “detractors or doubters…with a negative attitude” (Valley Journal 12/12/12). Polson’s “Strategic Meeting” document (1/11/13) labeled citizens with opposing views as “threats” and named them “naysayers” and “spiteful people.” One citizen expressed unhappiness about those labels and suggested the mayor and city commissioners remove the remarks. She received nothing more than blank stares.
What had we done to deserve this name calling? We stated concerns about the Orton Heart & Soul/Polson project by researching the organization, observing, and reading the agreement and detailed plans. For that, Heart & Soul coordinators have called us negative, insignificant, harassers, and even bullies. What had we done? We opposed special interest projects wanted by a small group who have influence over public officials. We objected to projects being pushed through without allowing open discussion. We don’t think the wisest expenditure of taxpayer dollars should be for extensive and expensive bike trail systems requiring perpetual maintenance. Some of us believe the city should focus on repairs and maintenance for our roads, focus on our failing sewage treatment, and service neighborhoods away from Main Street.
The mayor stated in the above mentioned Valley Journal Heart & Soul story that she is “excited about the opportunity to gain further insight and feedback from all members of the greater Polson community.” She and others won’t hear all the people if they are only listening to Heart & Soul and special interest groups.