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Democracy takes more than a Facebook post

Tribune Staff • Mar 26, 2019 at 1:00 PM

Government by the people requires more than just voting on election days. That’s just the start.

Participating in the important decisions is your right, and it should be exercised freely.

When Grand Haven City Council failed to muster the four votes required to approve a lease for a distillery to open a shop in the city-owned train depot at the west end of Washington Avenue, many voiced their displeasure.

And many citizens seemed to have an opinion on the plans to redevelop the Dairy Treat on Harbor Drive into a three-story condo complex.

But the problem is, all that outrage was largely contained to Facebook comments.

Perhaps social media, for many of us, has replaced the old town hall. In many ways, that’s true.

However, we cannot expect our elected leaders to have their eyes glued to Facebook pages and the myriad other platforms where their constituents may be posting their thoughts on the issues.

Grand Haven City Councilman Josh Brugger unleashed a tirade on one Facebook page where locals gathered to complain about a city debate over the plans to build the Dairy Treat/condominium complex. While at a city Planning Commission meeting where the site plan was to be approved, he wondered where everyone upset about it was that night.

“(T)onight, when the project is being reviewed by the Planning Commission who will actually be voting on it and who are actively listening to comments made from residents ‘on the record,’ … there are 20 people here; and half those sit on city commissions.”

As Brugger noted, all meeting dates and times are posted on the city website.

Certainly we don’t expect everyone to attend every governing board meeting in the municipality where they live. That would be too much to ask. What we are encouraging you to do, however, is to let your elected officials know how you feel about issues that are important to you.

That could happen should you be having a conversation online with an elected official. Or see him or her at the store.

But, more than likely, you will have to email him or her, or them, directly. You may have to attend a City Council or Township Board meeting or two to offer your opinion during the public hearing or public comment period. If you can’t be there in person, submit written comments to be read aloud during a public hearing.

That’s how “democracy in action” works.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Mark Brooky, Duncan MacLean and Alexander Sinn. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to [email protected] or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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