Friday, July 8, 2011

Kuna residents need to start speaking up in public

A reader was in my office the other day when City Council member Rich Cardoza happened to stop by. After a few minutes of jawboning, the reader kind of let Cardoza have it over the proposed $22 business license fee being proposed by the city. It was clear that the reader was a bit upset over the prospect of having to pay $22 a year just because he happened to own a business and lived in the city of Kuna.
The merits of the proposal aside for just a minute, here's what really troubles me: What would have happened if Cardoza hadn't happened to be strolling by at that moment or hadn't decided to stop in my office. How would Cardoza have known that this person didn't like the business license fee idea?
In recent weeks, I have written editorials about the business license fee, the Kuna Chamber taking over Kuna Days, the city's new taxi ordinance, pressurized irrigation for a national chain among many other controversial stories. How many letters to the editor have I received about these topics? None. How many people have shown up at City Council meetings to voice their opinions? Slim to none.
Cardoza, too, complained to me that he doesn't receive nearly enough feedback on these difficult issues. He complains about our "coffeeshop culture" where everyone wants to complain at the coffeeshop — usually with ridiculously false information — rather than actually do something about it.
If you don't like something — or if you support something — for Pete's sake, let the City Council know about it. Write a letter to the editor, write a letter to council. Do something. But formulating an opinion, usually based on some false rumor or gossip, at the coffeeshop or at the end of the bar does absolutely nothing.
In one of our surveys that we disseminate to our readers, one of our subscribers said we'd get a lot more letters to the editor if they could be anonymous.
Maybe, but the quality of the information in those letters I can almost guarantee would be near zero. You see, when people have to actually put their name to something, they're a lot more careful about getting their facts straight. When you're anonymous, you can throw around all sorts of accusations and innuendo without having to back up your claim. Without your name, you don't have to worry about looking like a fool. So that's one of the main reasons we set the bar high on requiring names.
The subscriber complains, though, that people are afraid of putting their name on a letter because the mayor and the city are going to come after them. Please. Give me a break. First of all, this isn't the mafia. Secondly, it's that very attitude that allows the city to make decisions that people don't like. Knowing that no one in this town will speak out publicly against any one action gives the city all the power in the world to do whatever it wants.
Third, many, many times I have written things against the city. Heck, I not only put my name on it, I put my photo with it, too. So far, I still have my knee caps, my tires haven't been slashed, I haven't been "run out of business," my family hasn't been kidnapped. I'm living, breathing proof that we can have healthy dissent in this town.
Until the residents of this city grow up and start behaving like adults, all we're going to get in the future is the same thing we've always gotten in the past.

No comments: