Saturday, May 08, 2021

Poison is a poor cure for growth anxiety

| April 28, 2021 1:00 AM

Growth can bring out the worst in us.

Middle fingers in thick traffic. Frustration in trying to understand how and why our peaceful existence is changing so dramatically and rapidly. Desperation in struggling to find an affordable place to live.

But the worst is reaching new lows.

Some frustrated citizens are making dangerous claims against members of city councils, planning and zoning volunteers and others. These citizens are alleging that behind any approved development, a corrupt official or officials are lurking.

Social media is replete with claims of under-the-table deals leading to public officials getting rich and taking extravagant vacations. Mayors, council members and volunteer board members are, with increasing frequency, being charged in the court of public opinion with felonies — absent one little detail.


Criticism of elected officials isn’t always fair, nor is it always accurate. State and federal laws expose public officials to heightened scrutiny as part and parcel of accepting the job. Citizens have a lot of leeway in expressing their feelings, even when those feelings are misinformed and misdirected.

But what’s happening in our community is inexcusable. By accusing decision makers of committing actual crimes, the accusers are not only weakening any argument they wish to make, they might also be crossing a legal line that could lead to being sued.

If there’s malice or blatant disregard for the truth, anyone speaking (slander) or writing (libel) falsities about another person could end up paying dearly in court. Again, public officials are open to wider and deeper criticism than the average citizen, but to call someone a thief, you’d better have irrefutable evidence or be prepared to face the consequences.

We encourage officials to take general criticism with a shrug and a yawn. Staying miles away from social media is a good starting point. But the vile accusations being slung recklessly must come to a stop, and officials should call out their accusers on the spot.

And accusers? We know you’re frustrated. You’re not alone. Make your case passionately. If the current officials aren’t leading the way you believe they should, replace them the next time they’re up for election or appointment.

But keep the poison on the shelf — for your sake, if nobody else’s.