Wherever they originate, listen to voters’ voices
Wednesday, June 04, 2014 12:00 AM
We feel for Greenwood City Councilman Kenn Wiltshire. He took offense when people called him a socialist on, of all things, social media, such as Facebook. The accusations came on the heels of the city’s initial step toward creating an ordinance that essentially would allow city police to require individuals on public property to supply, on demand, their names, addresses and dates of birth.
On Monday, during a council meeting, Wiltshire expressed his dismay about the moniker given him. It arose out of discussion among council that led to its decision to, at least for now, kill any further effort to enact the stop-and-identify ordinance. And while we applaud council now, as we did last week upon learning the ordinance was likely dead in the water, we also applaud Wiltshire for his general stance on the issue of council action and how it votes while cautioning him, and others, to be in tune with the changing ways constituencies voice their opinions.
In particular, Wiltshire decried what he saw as his fellow council members’ caving to Internet complaints.
“Quite frankly, I’m appalled by being bullied on the Internet,” he said. “I’m just cautious that we are responding to a bullying group or lobbyists or whatever you want to call them. ... I’m just very wary of looking like, as soon as somebody doesn’t like something, as long as you run it all over the Internet, we are going to back off.”
We get that. People in elected office are in a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation. They cannot, as the saying goes, please all of the people all of the time. But we hope and trust it was far more than just the firing up of social media that led to council’s decision to abandon the stop-and-identify ordinance. If that were all council hung its decisions on, then we would have to wholly agree with Wiltshire’s assessment. That was not the case, however, as city manager Charlie Barrineau shared his phone lit up with calls from residents.
Sadly, today’s world seems to be all too caught up in social media. We get that, too, as the newspaper, like many other businesses and other mediums, uses Twitter, Facebook and the like to get its message out. We suspect there would have been a packed house had the ordinance advanced to the public hearing stage. At least, we hope so. We would like to think letters to the editor would have flooded our pages on the issue, but have to acknowledge a good many of those would-be letter writers chose Facebook and Twitter as their avenues for voicing concern.
We agree council -- any elected body, really -- should not simply cave in to protests, especially anonymous ones posted on Internet sites and through social media. But we also believe the protests leveled through social media, coupled with the traditional communication methods afforded people through email, telephone and good old-fashioned person-to-person conversation, should be taken to heart. In this case, at least, it would appear a great groundswell of constituents used whatever outlets they had available to tell council where they stood on a matter.
You cannot please them all. That’s true. You should vote your conscience. That’s true. But when the people speak as loudly and plainly as they did on this issue, no matter the outlet they chose, it is also true you should listen.