Leading by Example

Sometimes events are such that they just beg for comment, and that’s what happened this past week, both at the Derry Town Council and at the Hooksett School Board – the latter a matter of concern because it involves both Pinkerton Academy and the Londonderry School District.
Hooksett board members were rude and disruptive during discussion and voting on sending students to Pinkerton and Londonderry. But the Derry Town Council, never a model of polite behavior, strayed beyond the pale Dec. 17. Civility has not been Derry’s strong suit, but stubbornness took precedence over substance – and the result has the potential to cause human suffering.
The question was acceptance of a grant for ventilators for ambulance and mass emergency use. After a public hearing, the chair moved to postpone the vote until Jan. 7, when Councilor Neil Wetherbee could be present. The motion failed – although at the Dec. 3 meeting, this same council agreed to postpone all votes until Wetherbee could attend.
In an unusual twist, Town Clerk Denise Neale took the mike to note that Dec. 3 decision, and then asked why she attends the meetings and prepares minutes if they are disregarded. And Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau told the council, “it’s not a good idea to be adamant that you’re always going to vote after a public hearing.”
Councilor Mark Osborne said it bothered him that Homeland Security “has money to give away,” and claimed it’s his duty to control expenses. Then it got personal.
Finally a Derry resident suggested a facilitator be brought in to help the Council deal with “trust issues.” How embarrassing.
We think trust is the least of the problem. Civility tops the list. An understanding that a councilor’s individual viewpoint is not justification for a vote – instead, it should be what is good for everyone in the community, regardless of political affiliation or belief – that’s the key.
Perhaps we wouldn’t be so concerned if the council had not taken other action that night. They wouldn’t postpone a vote on a potentially life-saving grant, but Osborne, who said regarding the grant vote that if it’s on the agenda, it should be voted on, made a motion to postpone a vote on a right-of-way release of a “paper street” that involves just two parties.
If the situation weren’t so serious, it would be comic. These are the people who make decisions for Derry residents. We wish other councilors had spoken out more about this display of ineptitude. Sadly, this type of behavior is more the norm than the exception, regardless of who sits in the chairs. But the venom can’t continue.

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