Surprising silence – Editorial

Politicians are frequent targets of public ire. People love to complain about all levels of government in the privacy of their own homes or in the relatively confined arenas of local bars and coffee shops.

But when given the chance to voice their opinions directly to elected officials, it’s routinely surprising to see how few people take advantage of the opportunity to speak truth to power.

We’ve seen two examples of this recently in Castlegar.

Last week, the municipal government held an open house to discuss the city’s upcoming budget. Despite a projected three-per-cent increase in residential property taxes, only a handful of Castlegar residents bothered to show up. But we bet there will be plenty of grumbling when that tax hike takes effect.

Likewise, given the recent controversy surrounding possible school closures, trustees with School District 20 have made a point of doing more community consultation before moving ahead with any decisions. But only about a dozen parents attended the district’s “focus group” meeting in Castlegar on Tuesday night. Those who did show up were disappointed by the low turnout.

As were we.

But it’s not like Castlegar residents are simply apolitical or worse, apathetic. When the local ultrasound machine was about to be moved to Trail, for example, the people of this city demonstrated a remarkable ability to organize and make their voices heard.

But political participation needs to go beyond reactionary rallies. The nuts-and-bolts procedures of city budgets and education facility plans may be less exciting subjects, but ultimately they have a much greater impact on the local community.

And if you don’t take the chance to speak up when asked, it’s hard to complain later.

— Castlegar News