Local politics at its best – and worst
The very nature of the job subjects elected officials to criticism. For most, debate and disagreement over decisions made becomes an accepted part of the position.
However, those who may disagree with or dislike them should subject no public official to personal threats or acts of vandalism.
Advisory town board members are elected officials; and, like our County Commissioners, some are popular, some are not, some seem to do a better job than others. But, unlike County Commissioners, they serve as volunteers and receive no pay for enduring many of the same tribulations involved in making difficult, often controversial decisions. And though they act only as recommending agencies to county officials and have no authoritative power, their actions can sometimes result in some uncalled for reactions.
Their tolerance level breached, two members of the Silver Springs Advisory Board recently resigned their positions when they became the objects of threatening phone calls. One said his office had been “egged” a few months ago.
=09These types of attack are not unique to Silver Springs, or to small town advisory boards. Sadly, public officials the world over are subjected to such abuse. While some may shrug and call resigning over a few phone calls an over-reaction, a perusal of the daily news shows that in today’s society no threat should be taken lightly.
Town boards are a community’s link to their county government, particularly so in Nevada’s widespread rural counties. They not only offer a forum for residents to discuss issues and concerns of local interest without having to drive many miles to the county seat, they offer an opportunity for residents to communicate with each other. They are a monthly town hall forum, ‘grassroots politics’ personified. They are an integral part of small town life.
It saddens me to see intimidation by a few disrupt this process. Anyone who has been involved in community affairs can attest to the difficulty in finding people willing to give the time and energy necessary to serve on an advisory board. When those who do come forward are driven away by intimidating actions it makes finding volunteers even more difficult and this constructive process of communication suffers.
Looking to clean up unnecessary trash and litter in the community, residents asked the Silver Springs Advisory Board to help in reporting violations of the county code governing refuse on private property. Reporting violations requires signing a complaint. However, putting your name on a complaint reporting your neighbor’s messy yard is likely to get the same reaction as putting your name on a complaint reporting your neighbor’s barking dogs – your neighbor is not too pleased.
So, responding to requests from the community, the advisory board offered to help out. Residents can call board members, ask them to check out a complaint and sign the report. Hence, the threatening calls to some board members. (The county is the actual enforcement agency.)
It is commendable the advisory board volunteered to help in solving a legitimate community concern. And there is no excuse for the resulting threats.
However, no matter how well intended they may be, should boards with no authoritative power be expected to serve as a resident’s conduit for reporting code violations?
Enforcing codes is difficult. Determining what is illegal and what is not can be tricky and controversial.
Lyon County has one Code Enforcement Officer to cover 2000 square miles. Though county officials are currently attempting to become more proactive, most code violations are dealt with only when residents report the alleged violations.
The problem arises when those who see a problem do not want the alleged offender to know who turned him in, the aforementioned acts of intimidation being a good example of why. However, placing an advisory board in the middle is not the answer.
County officials should not be blamed for current enforcement problems. They face a difficult situation and appear to be trying to find a workable solution. However, until they come up with an affordable and fair proactive policing policy, the responsibility must remain with the individual to either “put up or shut up.”
Learn to live with the nuisance until you are willing to file the proper notice of complaint – or call a commissioner to do it for you.
Registered voters living within the boundaries of the Silver Springs wastewater treatment district should be receiving sample ballots this week with information regarding the May 23 special bond election. After reading the enclosed explanation of the ballot question, there should be no doubt that a “yes’ vote is the only option available.
It is this simple – regardless of how you feel about the project and regardless of how the vote turns out, the project will become a reality; however, a “yes” vote saves you money. A “no” vote will cost you money.
No strings attached.
Think about it.