Montrose residents take note: beware the malcontents

Aug. 4, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

We need people who are willing to stand up and make tough decisions for the good of the entire group, but this does not mean that we should blindly accept whatever decisions they make.

We have both the right and the responsibility to question the decisions of our elected officials and their methods of operation, but it does not follow that anyone who disagrees with leadership is right.

Some people stand on the sidelines and criticize every move others make.

They may do this publicly, or they may skulk around in the shadows spewing venom and scattering their little kernels of half-truth wherever they go.

They often claim that they do what they do for the good of the city or the organization.

We must be careful, however, to be just as critical of the naysayers as we are of the leaders.

Sometimes, these “concerned citizens” are not doing it for the public good, but to further their own private agenda.

The City of Montrose offers some examples.

It was recently reported that the city received 239 data practices requests (for public information) between April 7 and July 8.

Despite vague allegations of “corruption” that have been made by certain residents, actual proof of illegal activity seems scarce.

If one has a concern or complaint, he is much more likely to get it resolved if he is willing to discuss it using clear and specific language, rather than hiding behind murky suggestions about possible impropriety.

It is good that residents provide input during the public forum portion of Montrose council meetings, but in some cases, the tone some of this input takes might lead one to question the motivation.

One resident stands out as the most vocal of those in opposition to the city council and city staff. Because he is a private citizen, I will not mention his name.

The individual in question has been feuding with the city for years.

He attends most council meetings and does have some valid points, and for this, he should be commended.

He says more people should attend council meetings and pay attention to the activities of their elected officials, and this is true.

However, the manner in which he chooses express himself could make one wonder if the feud is clouding his judgement.

When a person resorts to name calling and personal attacks, it makes one wonder if he has run out of legitimate ammunition.

If we remember to comport ourselves as ladies and gentlemen, we can disagree without abandoning respect, civility, and politeness.

The person in question has frequently used abusive language in reference to anyone who disagrees with him.

In a recent e-mail to a local pastor (in which the sender gave his permission to forward the message to “anyone”), he made the comment, “like most in Montrose, you are absolutely clueless.” He went on to write, “It’s more than obvious why we’re so disfunctional (sic) in this pathetic little town.”

This seems to sum up his opinion of his neighbors and the town in which he lives.

The e-mail was a response to a message from the pastor in which he had the audacity to ask the person to try to work together with the city to resolve issues.

Not only did the recipient lash out at the pastor, calling his views “religious escapism,” but he also included an unprovoked attack on Council Member Andy Kauffman.

In addition to making vulgar and offensive comments, he stated that Kauffman has “betrayed the taxpayers.”

The resident in question often refers to the city council as puppets of the city administrator. Perhaps the real issue that he has with Kauffman is that Kauffman thinks for himself, and refuses to be a puppet for the opposition.

Kauffman and the pastor are part of a group of people who are tired of the negative view and the constant bickering, and who focus instead on positive accomplishments and on opportunities to make a difference in the city.

They understand that we don’t all need to be friends, but we do need to respect others and work together.

Montrose has its problems, but plenty of positive things have taken place in the city recently.

Two new parks were built by community volunteers in the last two years.

The city applied for and was awarded a $175,000 Safe Routes to School grant, which will make the city safer for children.

Residents Sylvia and Roy Henry stepped up to organize a Montrose seniors group that meets each week, and a meal program was recently added to enhance this opportunity.

Another volunteer offers free Tae Kwon Do classes for children each Thursday in Montrose.

Events such as Montrose Days and National Night Out offer ways for the community to come together and become stronger.

Every day, people are doing things to improve the community rather than just complaining about it.

The chief critic accuses the city government of “squandering” tax dollars. One wonders how many tax dollars have been spent defending the city against his constant attacks, or to fulfill his dubious requests for information. Some might treat this like a joke, but the cost to taxpayers amounts to serious money. One would think Montrose residents would object to funding the personal vendetta of a small group of malcontents.

No doubt the critics are honorable people, but it seems that those who claim to be “doing all the heavy lifting” for their neighbors are often conspicuous by their absence at community events, or when it comes to volunteering to help with community projects.

Quite often, the malcontents don’t let little things like facts get in their way, and a small amount of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

The critics may be intelligent people. They may have good ideas, and they may even be genuinely interested in the good of the city.

If these people would use their seemingly boundless energy to build bridges, rather than to tear things down, there is no limit to what they could accomplish.

We must all make choices in life. This is especially true when we are faced with challenging situations. We must decide if we are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

We can accomplish far more by working together than we can ever hope to accomplish by divisive squabbling.

Our leaders have responsibility in this, too. They need to consider all of the options and listen to all of the stakeholders before they make decisions.

Openness and transparency in government can go a long way toward reducing distrust among the residents.

We all have choices, and, at the end of the day, it is still true that actions speak louder than words.