The joy of being heard - Coeur d'Alene Press: Editorial

The joy of being heard

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Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 12:00 am

A host of candidates has been chosen to serve their communities. First and foremost, we applaud not just the winners, but those who did not succeed in their bids for office. In most Kootenai County communities, voters had real choices about who should lead their local governments. We're grateful to all for giving us choices.

If a single theme resonates from this election season that is louder or more volatile than others, we think it's the idea that citizens want their voices to be heard. Let's rephrase that: Citizens are demanding to be heard. Winners in Tuesday's election who don't heed that call won't be serving very long.

In Coeur d'Alene, it's likely that current members of the Coeur d'Alene City Council would be frustrated by this editorial. On many, many occasions, they might argue, the public's opinion was sought - in various physical locations, at different times of the day and evening, and in the world of electronic communication as well. They might say that there's a big difference between not hearing and simply not agreeing, and to a degree they'd be right.

But the bottom line is that many citizens feel disenfranchised. There's a sentiment that leaders make up their minds early, ignore testimony or suggestions, and ultimately do whatever they wanted to in the first place.

Understanding that no decision will ever be universally embraced, we recommend that mayors and city councils in communities where the communication gap is evident consider finding new ways to ensure the people are being heard and their ideas given serious consideration. One approach would be to seek out a small group of critics and supporters alike, and appoint them to an ad-hoc committee. The committee would recommend the best ways to gather and assess community input.

Advisory votes could certainly be helpful, but because voter turnout even in binding elections is so low, additional sentiment-gathering means should be considered. Town halls in various locations and at different times allow residents to provide much more information than a mere "yes" or "no" vote. Who knows what other recommendations these committees might have? If the committees truly represent a cross-section of their communities, their suggestions will prove of great value in helping leaders actually lead.

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