Are citizen activists just a nuisance?

"We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company."

-- Comedienne Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the telephone operator

That's the problem with monopolies, of course.

The thing is, there aren't too many of them left. Competition has even come to the phone company!

The biggest monopoly left may be government. Federal government. State government. Local government. Like Ernestine the operator, they have no competition. There's nowhere else to go.

And often, they act like it.

We wonder if that's the case with City Hall, as it continues to be the model of aloofness in withholding public records. And now the Augusta Commission has twice given a fairly frosty shoulder to Harrisburg residents who merely want a nuisance property ordinance.

The residents have been picketing properties and landowners they consider to be code and law enforcement problems in the Harrisburg area. They asked the commission's Public Safety Committee last week, and the full commission on Tuesday, to form a task force to look into the problem, including a possible nuisance property ordinance.

The commission as a whole or the mayor could have, and should have, warmly embraced the all-too-rare activists. Such citizens are working to be a part of the solution. And when they come before the government, our mayor and commissioners and city staff should treat them like valued customers.

The elected officials were at least cordial Tuesday -- but didn't deign to discuss the citizens' very specific task force proposal. Commissioners Don Grantham, Joe Bowles and Corey Johnson at least commended the group, but otherwise the commission merely accepted their presentation as information, as one might accept junk mail.

At the very least, they should either form such a task force as the citizens requested or assure the citizens that a committee already exists -- such as, oh, the Public Safety Committee? -- and will work on not only the nuisance ordinance but will take a fresh look at the hapless enforcement of current codes. (Remember, Commissioner Betty Beard's own rental property, in plain view of the code officers, was allowed to be woefully deficient.)

Instead, the citizens were told for the second time in a week that the city's legal department will look at it.

That's better than nothing of course, and we're glad of it. But it's not just what the city is doing that's important -- it's also how . The Harrisburg activists came away feeling as if they were just blown off again. They hardly felt valued. Fact is, they've been made to feel like -- well, a nuisance.

Is that important? Depends -- on whether you value the people you work with and work for, or if you're a monopoly and don't have to care.

More

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 18:09

Now the watchdogs bark