Representatives should listen to the people

Political leaders are elected to speak for the people but some lose sight of their role as a representative.

This week Westfall Township Supervisors and Matamoras Council members met in a rare joint meeting to discuss shared services.

Contributions each municipality makes to fund the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department are the biggest shared expense.

During the meeting, a Westfall citizen, concerned at Westfall’s proposal to cut its contribution by $20,000 in 2013, expressed to supervisors that funding the police is an important safety issue to him.

He was passionate but not rude.

Westfall Supervisor Bob Ewbank took umbrage at his remarks, fired back a few reasons why the township budget is so hard to balance, and then told the man, who had come out to attend the meeting, that if he really cared so much, he should attend the meetings.

The tone and volume of the squabble that followed escalated into something angrier than two hillbillies fighting over the last piece of mama’s Thanksgiving possum pie.

By ratcheting up the tension and blaming his constituent for not doing his part, Ewbank risked humiliating a voter who came to speak his mind.

A better approach would have been to listen politely, and consider if this opinion might be representative of other members of the public.

Often, you hear municipal board members complain that people never attend the meetings until they have something to gripe about.

If you want an adoring audience, don’t run for office. Instead try out for a role in community theater.

When things are going well, most busy folks stay home.

While there is much to be said for being engaged in the local political process, when “Dancing with the Stars” is on TV, work weary constituents depend on officials to represent them. That’s what they were elected to do.

If constituents attend a meeting they have something to say. The underlying message is always the same: “represent me.”

Too often (but not always) municipal leaders react defensively or dismiss public comments, and continue on their planned path without considering other views. That is not how it is supposed to work.

Like parents monitoring a loud slumber party in the basement, constituents have a message for municipal leaders at township hall: “Don’t make me come down there.”

If they do, you better show some respect.

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