Some weeks have an outsized number of meetings that draw public participation. This past week was one of those.
The issues were widespread: Disruption continues at the Egg Harbor Fire Department. Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding is constructing new buildings at its Sturgeon Bay shipyard. Some Washington Island residents want the Door County Board of Supervisors to reconsider the decision it made last month to purchase an old dairy operation as the site for a new emergency-services operation on the island. And the Forestville millpond continues to draw complaints.
It’s difficult to find the “truth” between two sides of an issue when those two sides are in complete opposition, yet equally supportable and reasonable by themselves. Some don’t like the “he said/she said” aspect of such stories, but I believe they signal to the reader the complexity of the issues: that values, perspectives and facts do not align. Such stories let us know that a situation exists that requires a completely open mind.
I’m always energized by such public participation. This may seem naïve, but I view it as democracy in action. It may also be uncomfortable for the local governing body. It may not produce the outcome the participants wanted. But it helps to keep our communities strong. Those who participate give decision makers more complete information. In turn, those decision makers get to practice their leadership skills. There’s nothing like facing a room that’s erupting with angry, frustrated or concerned citizens to learn where your skills are lacking.
Of course, those kinds of situations have to be viewed by the decision makers as opportunities to practice leadership. That doesn’t mean doing what the public wants or not doing what it wants. That public is elusive. It means remaining open to possibilities, directions and options that had not been considered. It’s a strength, not a weakness, to change one’s position based on having received, heard and processed additional information.
I’ll always believe it’s a sign of a healthy community when people are actively engaged in what’s happening, and a good thing for everyone involved. We’re always on the lookout for wherever this may be happening in the 21 municipalities that exist on this beautiful peninsula we all call home. So: What’s happening in your neighborhood?