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Engaged citizenry important for democracy

Posted on May 9, 2017 by Sunny South News

Community engagement is important for any municipality. It allows voters a chance to voice concern or offer praise for ideas, notions, policies, procedures, events, projects, etc.
What is alarming though is what makes a community engage with their municipal leaders through letters, council meetings, public hearings, etc. It’s interesting to observe what makes a whole bunch of people get bent out of shape and then what doesn’t, when it should.
Case in point, recently the Town of Coaldale has been back and forth on the issue of Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) and the possibility of getting rid of a bylaw that more or less has outlawed the Las Vegas-like machines.
There have been many meetings, public hearings and now a plebiscite on the issue has been implemented for the next municipal election this fall. The Town of Coaldale has also recently held public hearings on a proposed Community Standards Bylaw.
It seems not too many community members have expressed concern or praise for this one — which is odd. A Community Standards Bylaw can affect the majority of community members, whereas, a vote to either bring back VLTs to town or keep them out, is a hot button topic for many and only affects a minute demographic of community members.
So, the question is — why?
Why are VLTs such a big issue for many Coaldale residents, but a Community Standards Bylaw doesn’t turn a head? This is not only a Coaldale problem — as this happens in all municipalities, but with different issues at the forefront.
Residents of any municipality have their own set of ideas, notions, morals, thoughts, beliefs and so on. Some residents want this and some want that. It is hard to make everyone happy all the time and sometimes some residents will be miffed, while others jump for joy on a decision a municipality will make or not make.
It is up to those elected and those in charge of running a municipality to do what they deem right or necessary for the majority or a hamlet, village, town or city. They are elected or hired to do so. That’s their job. Being transparent and open is what is needed for any municipality to move forward. Most municipalities try to do this, as much as possible, but some don’t and it shows.
It is up to a municipality’s citizenry to keep those in charge or calling the shots accountable for their actions or sitting on the fence or inaction. But, when it comes to the important issues and there are opportunities for the public to have a voice or opinion — then please citizenry, take part in the process.
Sure, sometimes issues are already decided, which is simply bad business, but it is important to remember — democratic society only works if its citizens are engaged.

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