The right to be heard

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
December 10th, 2009

 This week saw some very passionate residents at meetings making their collective voices heard. Residents in the Mt. Baldy area came to the board of trustees of School District #51 to press them to change their decision on the re-routing of the school bus serving their children. At Grand Forks city council, residents attended to hear the verdict on the choice to talk or not to talk about medical marijuana. Both meetings were emotionally charged.

I am rather proud to say that democracy is alive and well in the Boundary.

Democracy can be kind of annoying at times. It forces us to hear presentations from people we don’t want to listen to, it makes us enter into discussions about topics that can be uncomfortable, it questions our decisions and it often challenges us to consider a different point of view.

But in the end, our political bodies must respect our democratic right to be heard, to have an independent point of view, and the right for discussion at political tables. That goes for both our elected officials and the public-at-large.

When Councillor Gene Robert presented his motion to curb any discussion about medical marijuana at the Grand Forks council table, I’m not certain he knew the overall ramifications of his motion. If council chose to not discuss one topic, how quickly could that precedent turn on others as council decides they just don’t have to hear about topics they find distasteful.

It was an interesting meeting to watch and to see our representatives in action. Ultimately the message had been received by council that there are more important issues on the table for their attention, but the majority of them recognized that they cannot stop people’s democratic right to be heard.

The meeting of the school board also honoured the voices of the parents who so passionately talked about the harm to the children that a change in their school bus route has caused. The board heard their request and took action by setting a meeting to hear from the parents and putting a notice of rescinding the motion on their next agenda, ensuring in the meantime that they have all the information possible to make an informed decision at their next board meeting. That’s all that can really be asked of them in the end – to hear concerns, relook at their decision and make a new decision based on all the information.

But that respect goes both ways. We cannot keep regurgitating the same complaint after decisions are made. There are procedures in place to ensure that things are not rehashed continuously. For Grand Forks city council no motion on the same topic can be made if a motion is defeated for a period of six months.

So, while the attempt to appease some residents in stopping discussion on unsavory (for some) topics was made, its now time to move on and let the council get back to work on the business everyone is wanting them to focus on anyway

Categories: Op/Ed