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Citizens have to speak out

Published 12:00am Sunday, September 15, 2013

Many of our elected officials believe that silence equals endorsement.

I don’t believe that is true. Even apathy, while deplorable and frustrating, shouldn’t be considered the same as support.

But I do believe that the citizens of Ironton, and really all of Lawrence County, have to start standing up for what they believe in and letting their elected representatives — locally, at the state level and in Washington — know how they feel on important issues.

Nothing seems to embody this need more than Ironton City Council’s recent decision to allow golf carts to be driven on city streets.

The newspaper and I vocally opposed this measure because of the significant safety concerns, the minimal plan as to how the ordinance will be enforced, a lack of analysis of what this is going do to the city’s traffic patterns and the fact that no one presented any substantial evidence that this will benefit the city.

The newspaper publicly requested Mayor Rich Blankenship to veto the ordinance and I formally did so in an e-mail to the mayor. His response was basically that he has already signed it into law — to take effect in 30 days — and that city council members have the ability to change their votes and that I should have asked them to do so, rather than singling him out to veto it.

I countered that this seems like passing the buck and that I believe he has a responsibility to take a stand on an issue of this importance.

The mayor disagreed with my assessment that the majority of citizens are opposed to this but are just hesitant to speak out about anything.

“The overwhelming result that was relayed to me was that (citizens) were in favor of this ordinance,” the mayor wrote. “I am in the public every day and attend functions daily as well. Very few citizens have even mentioned the subject over the past two months let alone voiced opinions in opposition.”

I’d like to know who he is talking to because virtually everywhere I go, and within every civic organization I am a part of, this has been a hot topic. I would be hard pressed to find more than 2 percent of those I spoke with who think this is a smart idea.

I get the fact we have to try to be different and that we want to set Ironton apart from the rest of the Tri-State, but I don’t believe this is the right way.

Of course, I keep an open mind to everything. If someone can explain how this will attract people to Ironton, promote economic development or do anything else positive, then I’m all ears.

All that I see is that it would create another safety concern in a town where traffic laws are ignored because there is virtually no fear of enforcement. It will also place another burden on a police force that is already understaffed.

But, maybe I am wrong. Maybe letting golf carts zip through the city will be looked back on as one the smartest decisions ever made. I will happily eat my words.

I certainly agree with council chairman Mike Lutz, who voted in favor of it, that collectively we are spending too much time talking about this issue when there are lots of other positive things going on in the city including the development of the riverfront and the addition of a hotel and at least one restaurant.

But that still doesn’t make it the right call.

Regardless of whether citizens think this issue is important or some other one that arises in the future, residents must stand up and allow their voices to be heard. Otherwise they will have no room to critique the decisions our elected leaders make.

 

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCaldwell_IT.

  • mickakers

    Tigger; Have you ever lived in a Golf Cart Community? I have lived in different ones for twenty years and believe me, Ironton is not one. Gallipolis? Is this a valid comparison? If my memory serves me correct, Gallipolis was more laid back than Ironton. However, the rest of your comments have merit. My compliments.

    (Report comment)

  • Tigger

    Once again the negative attitude’s are alive but not doing well, only doing harm to our city and community. Why???? How many of you attended the meeting when the golf cart issue was discussed??? If you would have, you would know the rules and restrictions that accompany the golf carts. Our own Chief of Police has been interested in this issue and talked to the officials in Gallipolis where golf carts are permitted. Zero accidents there. Are they better drivers then we are? I think not!?!? Thank GOD there are organizations in Ironton who believe in this city and are trying to help it become the city it once was. Full of life, businesses, and community events. How many have attended the FREE events held in Ironton this summer for all to enjoy, Tuesday night concerts, came to see the Clydesdales and enjoyed free popcorn, snow cones, ice cream and inflatables, enjoyed the Fireworks on the river front, brought your children and/or grandchildren to the Spray Park, came to the Craft Show at the Ro-Na and SUPPORTED the Rally on the River,( to name a few)????????
    Speaking of the Ro-Na and Spray Park, how many of you have volunteered or made a donation to the Ro-Na, bought a brick to help with the expense of the Spray Park?????

    (Report comment)

  • mickakers

    My compliments, Michael Caldwell on a well thought out and written article. You are a little more patient than I am when it comes to dealing with ignorance, of course, you are in a different position than I am.

    (Report comment)

  • swampcreature

    Thank you for another fine editorial Mike.

    I am not afraid to speak out. I have done so many times. However, there are repercussions to doing so in this little city. Plus, most city council members truly do NOT want your input at their meetings.

    City could easily run a scientific poll on such issues by placing a spot on the water bill to mark. However, I am sure our city officials already know what the results would look like. That is why you saw all the quasi-governmental agencies speaking out in favor of this as a “tourist attraction” (What a joke!)and a way to “market Ironton” (Another idiotic thought!).

    If Ironton had golf courses in neighborhoods like Indian Hills, Zenith Heights and Green Valley, I could understand the logic of such a law. However, Ironton does not even offer miniature golf.

    There is no reason to place golf carts on our already dangerous roads. This is not a golfing community or a resort town.

    The bottom line is a few important people already own golf carts and want to ride them. Stupidity rules in Ironton when the right people want something done.

    I am afraid our “leaders” will have to learn the wisdom of this law the hard way. When the golf carts leave behind a trail of blood and tears, council and the mayor can revisit the issue.

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  • Mike Caldwell

    Someone went out of their way to skew the Tribune’s poll results and play the system. You are supposed to only be allowed to vote once but, as with anything with computers, there are ways around that. The logs showed it was all the same user from the same IP address.

    This individual voted more than 950 times over just a few minutes. I reset it to reflect actual votes.

    Continued abuse of this nature will result in me disabling the poll and blocking this user’s IP address from accessing our site.

    We want to see legitimate results, regardless of what those are.

    Thank you.
    Mike Caldwell
    Publisher

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    • swimmingupstream

      Mike….Don’t stop the polls; stop the cheaters…

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  • swimmingupstream

    Obviously, council members and the mayor do not read these responses on The Tribune’s site. I counted slightly over 20 comments on the various stories on the golf cart topic and not one was positive. I can’t wait until the mayor has to follow a golf cart all the way up 3rd St. at 5 mph. It will not only be interesting to find out who licenses their carts for the city streets, or how they are going to get in the police station to do so since it is rarely open any more, but it will be equally interesting to see who opens a golf cart business!!! The could not only sell them, but have a fleet available to rent to all the tourists who are bound to flock to Ironton now that golf carts are legal…

    (Report comment)

    • Digi

      Oh, they read them I would bet on that! The thing is, they don’t care! They will always do just what they want to do for themselves and the good ole boy system and this is just more proof of that.

      (Report comment)

  • bleedingheart

    Mike, the reason this forum and others like it are so popular is because we can voice our opinions behind a computer screen. When we do so publicly it becomes personal. We are labeled “trouble makers”. I have attended council meetings (not Ironton’s) where elected officials laugh, ridicule, and personally attack citizens who voice concerns. (Noted the offended people were not at the meeting.)I have overheard Ironton council members discussing topics with citizens and making personal remarks about people who disagree on their policies. Thank goodness the voting booth is still private.

    (Report comment)

    • swimmingupstream

      I, too, have attended a lot of city council and school board meetings over the years, both in Ironton and other locations. And while the school board has been generally interested in what citizens think, I cannot say the same for the Ironton City Council. First, you are only allowed to speak at the beginning of the meeting and not during the legislative business. Since the audience is not generally made aware of what’s on the agenda I have found myself many times wanting to speak, but not allowed. When I have spoke I found the reception generally cool – and have been told more than once that if I don’t like what they do I should run for council. I just don’t go anymore. So it’s no wonder we have four council vacancies and only 3 candidates (two of which filed at the last minute because noone else did and they could stay on the gravy train without having to campaign). Pretty sad state of affairs.

      (Report comment)

  • Digi

    I have to agree, everywhere I have been lately someone has been making jokes about golf carts! So I would love to know where the mayor has been hanging out too! I guess drinking with your buddies over in Kentucky may not get you much cart conversation though. But I suppose when we see those first few carts on the streets we will all know who this was all passed for, because everyone knows it has nothing to do with the betterment of Ironton. Perhaps this will be the one that pushes the voters over the edge and makes them see they need to actuall go vote someone into office who in the last bit of thier career doesn’t spend it doing frivolous things like golf cart ordinances to travel to pretend tourist attractions!

    (Report comment)

    • whitetiger

      The negative attitude is alive and well in Ironton. Its no wonder it takes forever to get anything done here. Instead of finding fault with everything people try to do to improve Ironton why not try getting involved. Volunteer to help clean up our town, attend the farmers market and other events planned. You might be amazed what we can do it we become positive in our attitude and actions. We could become a tourist attraction if we all got involved instead of expecting a few forward thinking individuals to do it all.

      (Report comment)

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