Cynic says half empty; skeptic asks to check

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reporting the truth should be the absolute goal of any good journalist and one of the first lessons that must be learned is how to be skeptical without being cynical.

That may seem like a semantical distinction but it really isn’t. Just ask Coal Grove Village officials who have been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion even when trying to do something good.

Webster’s defines skepticism as “the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain” or “the method of suspended judgment.”

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Cynical is listed as “contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives” or “based on or reflecting a belief that human conduct is motivated primarily by self-interest.”

That is a big difference and a really polar opposite on how you perceive things in our community.

A perfect example is the announcement last week that the village of Coal Grove sold a piece of property, netting more than $300,000 for the village.

So what did they do with the money? Did it get put in a bank account to just collect interest? Nope.

Did Mayor Larry McDaniel and the council decide to hire more people of buy equipment that was likely needed but not critical? Wrong again.

The village opted to do something that is almost unheard of for governments — remove a fee that was taxing the people of the community.

The council rescinded a fire fee they passed in 2006 to buy a new fire truck. At $4 per month for residences and $8 for businesses, this will provide some needed relief for many in the community.

The mayor and council should be applauded for doing the right thing.

Unfortunately, some in the village seem to fall in the “cynical” category and see only imaginary negatives.

“Well, they will only get it back from us in some other way,” those naysayers have said.

“This is only to make up for other things goings on in the village,” others have countered.

Come on. Wake up and realize that this is something positive for the Coal Grove community and sometimes there isn’t an ulterior motive.

Sometimes, even with politicians, the right thing to do is … just the right thing to do.

Maybe the City of Ironton could take notice of this and work to adopt a similar approach.

While Ironton’s fees are not the same because the funds don’t just pay for one item, the principle is the same: Government should be working to reduce the fees it places on its constituents not to increase them.

Ironton leaders renewed a “temporary” municipal fee earlier this year for another two-year term. The problem was nothing substantial was done the first go around to ensure the fee could go away.

So far, I haven’t seen much to convince me that this fee is truly intended to go away in 2010. Right now, the city seems to be relying on this money just to maintain the status quo.

If Ironton’s municipal fee is truly temporary, then now is the time for the city to begin taking steps toward curbing expenses or finding other sources of revenue. Maybe then Ironton resident would be as happy with this as Coal Grove residents should be that their bills just became a bit more affordable.

It would be cynical of me to say that this will never happen. It is just skeptical for me to say that I will wait until it happens to celebrate.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at