Less, not more

Public delivers a message and wonders if it’s really understood

Milam County once had a state representative named Lois Kolkhorst. Just before our county was redistricted out of her jurisdiction she held a workshop at Fair Park for new elected officials as a kind of introduction to what the life of an elected public servant is like.

One, an earnest and dedicated young councilwoman, not from Rockdale, expressed concern that no one attended council sessions and asked “how can we get the public to show up at our meetings?”

Kolkhorst offered a wry “been there, done that” kind of smile and answered: “Do something they don’t like.”

The wisdom of that statement was in evidence last week when at least 90 persons crowded into Rockdale’s council chambers to voice virtually unanimous opposition to the city’s proposed comprehensive nuisance ordinance.

Democracy works. The council pulled away from the ordinance faster than a NASCAR driver leaving the pits. Council members then expressed appreciation to the crowd for being there. While the crowd, in the frame of mind it was in last Monday, may not have totally embraced the appreciation, it was absolutely genuine.

Everyone on the council is a dedicated public servant who has volunteered his, or her, time and talents to make Rockdale a better place. The conflict has been, and will always be, how to go about accomplishing that.

A concern remains that the council may still not be understanding the whole picture of what really happened last Monday night.

Its immediate reaction was that the outcry came because it wasn’t doing a good job of communicating with the public, that better communication will fix everything.

Isn’t it possible the public is reacting precisely because what’s been happening is being communicated quite well and they just plain don’t like it?

Quite often political candidates and parties will conclude after losing an election they just “didn’t get our message out” when actually the message got out and was rejected.

At some point in the past decade, not necessarily originating with this council but certainly expanded by it, the perception of city government here changed. It was assumed Rockdale’s residents wanted it to be governed more like a major metropolitan area, like the Metroplex, Round Rock perhaps.

It was assumed Rockdale residents needed, maybe even craved, commissions, committees, special districts, boards, workshops, visioning, procedures, interventions, master plans, codes, ordinances and more government, much more government, at the municipal level.

Isn’t it possible this assumption was, and is, simply wrong?

Isn’t it possible what most residents want from their city is more basic—their garbage picked up, their streets maintained, their water reasonably clean, their homes safe, their taxes spent wisely and their lives free to live as they desire?

Isn’t it possible Rockdale residents actually want to live in Rockdale, not Highland Park?

Isn’t it possible Rockdale wants less city government, not more?

Well, isn’t it?—M.B.

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2013-04-18 digital edition

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