Northport meetings no place for a civics student
We’re big supporters of the public’s right — and duty — to become involved in local government. But something has to change in Northport Village.
Council members who earlier this year approved new rules for Northport Village meetings may have thought the tone of meetings would change. They haven’t. And they won’t until village president Fred Steffens slams his gavel earlier and more often, receives support from those who are in attendance, and council members themselves treat each other with more respect.
Some of the harsh feeling that emerges at meetings has roots back to construction of a controversial municipal sewer system, but that’s long since been buried.
Some has to do with legitimate differences in the role of local government. But such discussions occur elsewhere without the rancor displayed in Northport.
Perhaps adults at the meeting should look at their actions through the eyes of a child — or better yet, as though their own children were in attendance. Would they recommend that a fifth grade student attend a Northport Village Council meeting as part of a civics lesson?
We’d bet not, and here’s why:
Council members are constantly arguing over the smallest of details, jockeying for the last words in a seemingly endless exchange of both open and hidden barbs.
Members of the audience routinely speak out of turn, mumble comments just loud enough to have an impact, or even argue amongst each other. At the last meeting, resident Jerry Spears cussed up a storm, and we’re not talking about an occasional “damn it.” Just because Northport is a costal village doesn’t mean the community should put up with words a sailor wouldn’t utter to his mother.
The setting doesn’t help. The village meeting room is cramped and sometimes filled, with residents leaning on walls down the hall. Holding meetings in a more spacious venue, say the township fire hall, might provide some separation among outspoken personalities.
It may be that no amount of forced decorum in the form of new meeting rules will stop the bickering in Northport. Still, dang it, you ought to be able to take your kids to a public meeting.