Friday, September 6, 2013

Beware of using a hammer when the target is not a nail

The emotional state is so high on all sides of this feud that is tearing apart Newfield.  It is impossible to determine what is fact and what is remembered incorrectly or even the context that may make a fact not look so damaging or harmful.  I have heard so many versions of events - all told in a highly emotional state -all conflict or have a different ignition point for the feud, so I do not know what to believe.  Mostly, I just want it to end with the way it used to be.  I don't know if that is possible now.

One thing is clear to me.  When the Borough Council tried to "solve" what they perceived as their problem with one individual on the fire company by writing and enacting a law with the help of their solicitor, the unintended consequence was to insult, anger, and hurt the other members of the fire company.  Thus, the feud snowballed.

Why were the members of the fire company so hit hard emotionally by the law? The ordinance "took over" what are normally responsibilities of a volunteer organization to create its own by-laws, to designate and name officers, and to decide who is a member or who isn't.  It wasn't like this was a fledging organization that needed guidance even though guidance in this manner isn't appropriate anyway.  The fire company has had by-laws and membership rules since 1908.

Did the Council members carefully read over the text of the new ordinance before they pledged their vote or did they listen to a summary that seemed to give them the ability to solve their "problem"?  I don't know.  Furthermore, I have no idea who actually wrote the ordinance.  Was it a Council member? Was it the town solicitor?  Was it a "freshly minted" lawyer in the solicitor's office who had little experience in researching what should or should not go into a local ordinance because it is already covered by state or federal laws?  I don't know.

What I do know is that they used a hammer (an ordinance) to fix what is a communications problem rather than a nail (speed limit on town streets).  I do not believe they had exhausted every communications avenue open to them nor had the fire company.  Individuals on both sides took it upon themselves to respond emotionally and evoke emotional responses in others.  Reason and logic flew out the window.  Everyone is trying to "control their turf" to the detriment of the town.

Sometimes the emotions run so high that people express the belief  that the best solution is to run a specific person out of town.  I am somewhat guilty in that respect because I was so angry after the events of the April Council meeting when the fire company was almost locked out.  That is not the way to end the feud either as it will leave a bad taste in townspeople's mouths for years to come.

The truth of the matter is phrased so succinctly in the Cool Hand Luke movie:  "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."  Court-ordered, court-controlled mediation would be best as has been suggested in the past and keeps coming up.  Also, it is essential that an ordinance be written and enacted  that restores the relationship between Borough Council and volunteer Newfield Fire Company No 1 to what it was before the 2010 ordinance changes began. 

This second part would let the townspeople know that the Borough Council is not trying to run the fire company and it would also let the firemen, who volunteer many hours of their time throughout the year, know they are respected and so is their organization.

What is the chicken and what is the egg?  Some one has to make the step - loudly and publicly. Some one has to be brave.

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