Failing to serve a town

Published 6:53 pm Thursday, August 24, 2017

The bully pulpit. Coined by President Theodore Roosevelt, this term refers to an office in which a person can push his agenda and capture the attention of constituents.

In the past, the term was coined without the negative connotation now associated with the word “bully.” It simply meant a superb pulpit, or a great opportunity to share one’s views.

Some elected officials in Beaufort County, however, have given a whole new meaning to “bully.”

Belhaven Board of Aldermen meetings are no longer what they once were. Instead of a place for discussion and respectful discourse, meetings are now largely consumed in the “miscellaneous mayor/council concerns” portion. There is no discussion. It’s a one-man show, as the rest of the board remains mostly silent. Much of town business is conducted outside of the meeting forum.

This is an improper way to go about town government. Town meetings should not involve repeated tirades. They should not pit officials against one another in such a way that it stalls progress.

Yes, speaking up for those people believed to be wronged is a good thing. Sharing one’s beliefs and vision for a better town is a good thing. But when it stalls a meeting and squashes any sort of healthy discussion, it has gone too far. There is a time and place for everything, but every single town meeting is neither the time nor the place.

Belhaven’s town meetings are divisive before they even begin. Far too often, it’s town manager versus mayor, alderman versus alderman. No matter where the conflict started, now is the time for those officials to step up and start conducting town business in the meeting forum — and in an appropriate way.

Belhaven meetings call images of the “bully pulpit” to mind, but it’s not in the way President Roosevelt envisioned.

It has to stop. After all, it’s the people they serve — the residents — who lose in all this.