Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Princeton Time Opinion

November 4, 2011

Letter to the editor: Democracy was served when people were heard

PRINCETON — I feel it is necessary to respond to the question and accusations posed in the Letter… section in the Princeton Times dated Friday, October 28. The letter from John E. Dills of Princeton asked, “Was (the) special meeting democracy at work?”

Simply put, yes it was.  Democracy is the free and equal representation of the people to participate in a system of government.  The Princeton City Council did just that, they gave Mr. Dills, and many others, the opportunity to participate in the city’s system of government.  Not one person was denied the opportunity to speak their opinions concerning the proposed purchase of the bank building on Mercer Street. Mr. Dills stated in his letter that City Manager Wayne Shumate was not allowed to hand out information concerning the purchase of the property. That was because Mr. Shumate had not been asked to prepare a handout and, quite frankly, at least three councilmen and the mayor had no idea there was a handout or what it said.

Back to the free and equal representation of the people. The special meeting for public input was not the “end all, be all” in the decision making process. Numerous citizens expressed their opinions for days and weeks before the meeting and others continue to express their opinions. The will of the people cannot be the only factor used by government in the decision making process, because the people do not see all of the aspects involved in the proposal.    

Mr. Dills suggests my mind was made up, “behind closed doors, days before this ‘special meeting.’”  The truth is each of us was asked to voice our thoughts at the executive session meeting following the regular City Council Meeting on October 11th.  I did state that I was for the purchase of the property, but that I also wanted to know what the community thought about this move before I voted.  The community did express itself to me, starting that night.  I took every opinion offered and I made the best decision I could based on all the information I had available to me at the time of the vote.  Isn’t that what should be expected of every elected official?

The majority of the people that spoke in opposition to the proposed purchase at the special meeting were city employees. They felt that in order for the city to be able pay for this building, the council would have to cut employee benefits, cut equipment budgets and lay-off employees. Somehow, our employees got the idea we no longer appreciate them and would intentionally hurt them before we looked at any other options to pay for this purchase. This is just not the case. Everyone on the council realizes that our city employees are invaluable and that their way of life cannot and should not be affected by this decision. Changes to the budget can be made in several areas, including revenue.  What if we didn’t cut anything, but rather increased revenue by way of new businesses and new citizens moving into the city? What if we received enough in grant money and contributions to fund the project?

Was the special meeting democracy at work? Yes, it was. You know the problem with democracy? Someone always loses. It is impossible for everyone to have it their way.  I am sorry that Mr. Dills feels that the meeting was, “A sham and a complete waste of time.” This meeting allowed the citizens of Princeton to voice their opinion based on the information they had available to them.  I did my job by listening to them, weighing all of the information I had available to me, and then making a decision.  That is how government is supposed to work.

— Jimm Norman

Princeton City Council

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