by Bill Boyle, San Juan Record Editor
Several years of increasingly bitter feelings – many of them expressed at length over the years on social media – boiled over at the recent town hall meetings.
In addition to familiar expressions of frustration and concern, there were also expressions that exhibit a variety of racial, religious, and cultural biases.
It is unfortunate that a discussion of issues can quickly devolve into stereotypes and mass accusations. We need to increase the level of our public discourse at all levels!
A new ballot initiative that will ask county voters in November if a committee should be formed to study a possible change in county government seems to have increased the tension, in addition to simmering animosity over a number of issues in recent years – including voting rights lawsuits and the creation and shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument.
Supporters of the ballot initiative state that it simply gives voters a chance to investigate a change in county government.
Opponents state that it is a thinly-veiled attempt to overthrow the current Commission.
At the August 20 meeting of the San Juan County Commission, Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy said the initiative is “driven by a group of people out there that are feeling that it is really awful to have two Native Americans sitting on the county commission. That is what it is all about.”
If voters approve the ballot initiative, a study committee will be formed to investigate a possible change in county government. Voters will then have the opportunity to accept or reject the proposed change, if any is recommended.
In general, we do not cover town hall meetings, although we certainly reserve the right.
Actual government meetings are led by an elected official with a published agenda as an organization does the business of the people.
Town hall meetings can be much more raw and much less formal as interested citizens meet to discuss the business of the people.
The meetings are fundamental to our United States government, protected by a Constitution that guarantees the right to petition, assemble, and express free speech.
In many ways, a newspaper serves as a weekly town hall meeting.
Newspapers provide a forum through Letters to the Editor. We do not state if we agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed in the letters, but we defend the ability of everyone to have a say.
Our letters are often raw and express strong sentiments, but as long as they are civil, everyone is invited to participate.
However, as stated above, it is unfortunate when a discussion of issues quickly devolves into stereotypes and mass accusations.
We need to increase the level of our public discourse at all levels, including the newspaper!
A healthy newspaper, like a healthy town hall meeting, gives all sides a chance to express their opinion.