Friday, September 13, 2013

Democracy in action -- loud, boisterous, and heartwarming

There was a regular monthly Newfield Borough Council meeting held last night.  It was loud and boisterous but the language stayed fairly tame.  The policemen there to keep order did not have to eject anyone.  Nothing was really settled about the fire company's fate, however.  But I felt so much better about my fellow citizens then I ever have before.  New and old faces turned out to tell the Council they were to fix the problem they had created - get the situation with the fire company back the way it was.

The blame for the failure to communicate was placed squarely at the feet of the Council.  People want the situation to go back to where it used to be:  The Borough Council runs the Borough services and the Fire Company runs the fire/rescue services and both respect each other and leave each other alone.

Unfortunately, the fire company issued an ultimatum that if the situation is not fixed in 30 days, they would quit.  I hope cool heads will prevail and that will not occur.  The impetus has to come from the Borough Council.  They were reeling last night and I sincerely hope sensible action happens quickly today.  I don't hold out hope, however, since they did the first reading of new ordinance about the fire company that according to the solicitor addresses the issues brought up by the court.  I have to say according to the solicitor because he sat there and stated he was not finished writing it.  How they could have a first reading of an ordinance without it even existing in written form is beyond me!?!  How can a Council member, in good conscience, vote yes on an ordinance they have not even had the opportunity to read?  I would have trust issues with the solicitor, if nothing else, at this point.

Different people tried to pin down who had placed the call to take the fire company out of the 911 response rotation on the evening of April 11 before they even held the vote whether to lock out the fire company or not.  No one owned up to it.

It also became clear to the audience, at least, that the Borough Council agrees how they are going to vote before the meetings.  I don't know if that is illegal as one of the audience members suggested, but it sure goes against the spirit of a participatory democracy.  The meetings are open for public comment so the Council can hear what people think and feel before they enact an ordinance.  Sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made but this issue is not about slavery and neither the Mayor or any Council member is Lincoln.

My heart was really warmed by two people.  One was Loretta Williams.  She comes to every meeting and, of the times I have attended, I have seen various Council members try to intimidate her out of speaking her piece.  They interrupt before she is finished or talk to her as if she is a child.  This time when they interrupted she fought back politely.  She said that according to Robert's Rules of Order that she had the floor and wasn't finished.  She got to finish. Go Loretta.  The other person I can not identify by name.  At the town hall meeting he had volunteered to run as a write-in candidate and listened almost for two hours last night before he spoke.  He referenced the Declaration of Independence, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it" and Edmund Burke's "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."  He announced his write-in candidacy, too.

I was over at the wikipedia page for Edmund Burke and didn't realize how many profound and succinct things he said or wrote.  I am going back there.

The Council did announce a permit for recycling and trash collection had been obtained and when it would start.  When someone asked if and how recycling would be enforced, it turns out there is a camera mounted in the truck to watch as trash carts are dumped inside.  If there are any recyclables seen as a trash cart is dumped, they will place a sticker on the trash cart.  Enough of those stickers and your trash will not be picked up.  I was so upset because instead of encouraging people to recycle they are threatening again.  All they did was insure that people who find it too hard to recycle will purchase heavy black trash bags that don't reveal what is inside.  Heck, even I will get some in case I have a pizza box that has too much grease and pepperoni/sausage debris that it is not really recyclable just looks like it.

I went up to ask if they were going to send out material on recycling ahead of time (usually it appears in the Town Crier pamphlet which appears in my mail after the event).  I was told it would be on the web site.  This prompted me to remind that the the old out of date web site ( comes up just as often as the new one (  The response was that they had to keep the old domain name for email reasons.; I told them to have the old redirect to the new and it was a simple change.  Lo and behold, someone was listening because as of now, that redirection has been implemented.  Once in a while someone listens to me.  Amazing.

The other item that was passed also flabbergasted me.  It was a resolution to allow a company to install fiber optic cable in the rights-of-way.  Mostly, I was flabbergasted because they have not even negotiated terms yet.  I was assured that the fiber optic would run on the utility poles already in place around town.  Fiber optic is often buried.  Assume often makes an ass out of "u" and me.  I drew their attention to this matter because some of the cemetery land is now a bird sanctuary (later to be burial lots) and has utility rights of way.  I know this because the gas company called me before they laid new flexible pipe and when they heard it was a cemetery chose a different route.  Like Loretta Williams, I had to assert my rights to the floor to even finish my concern.

My feelings are mixed.  Nothing was really settled and we are still barreling down the path to having no fire company.  More people, who are not directly related to the fire company, participated.  They made their wishes clearly known and it wasn't for the Borough Council to keep on its merry way trying to control the fire company and fire chief as it was jeopardizing the safety of the town.  I learned more about their issues with the ex-fire chief (they are suing him) and even one of the council members backed him up as a specific charge was based on incorrect information.  People were brave and spoke their minds.  I hope someone with wisdom and gravitas fixes this soon.

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