Authentic Democracy

Tonight I went to my first ever Town Hall Meeting. It was excruciatingly boring. But I'm going to make you sit through and read about it anyway.

It is touching to be at the center of democracy in action, to see the decisions being made at the base level. But there was something missing. And it is not to detract from the Town Council, who as far as I can tell are doing an excellent job. Rather, it is like going to a church after you've experienced the authentic communal lifestyle of the early Church. No matter how good that church might be, you've experienced something better before.

So there were many similarities between this meeting and Quaker Meetings I've been part of. But it is like the similarity between a lamp and the sun. Both provide light, but one reminds you of the original light, for it is only a pale imitation. Here, those on the board made all the decisions. There were occasionally times when they would ask for thoughts and comments from the audience- but that is what we were; an audience. We were not participants in democracy. Our true role ended the minute we put our ballot into the box. Whereas in a Quaker Meeting at any time anyone can rise to share, and everything is determined by consensus. At one point my old Meeting was considering a name change, but one person was reluctant to agree. Rather than forcing the issue, we waited a year, until he came around. And though there can be many boring items raised in Meetings as well, like anything having to do with finances, since everything is approached with an attitude of agape and worship, even the most mundane tasks are flavored with a taste of the parousia. At the Town Hall meeting, I got no such feel, and so most of what occurred tonight was not so much irrelevant, as that we the citizens were largely irrelevant.

There were two items of greater interest. A few weeks ago one citizen of Springfield had been required to pay his home business garbage fees. This pissed him off so much that he told on his neighbors, saying that they also weren't paying their fees. One of those neighbors was in there tonight, complaining that his business was remodeling other's homes, so the only garbage that his business produced was at the homes of others, and not at his home. It would be ridiculous for him to have to pay for an extra bin at his home, when they can't even fill up the residential bin they already have. The Town Board declared that there can be no exceptions, and all businesses in the township must pay this fee. I thought to tell him of an idea I had- to declare that he had no home business, but rather that he conducted all of his business outside his home, on the road- but when I followed him and his wife out, they had mysteriously disappeared, as if they were never there.

I also found out that there are plans to build a freeway through the area in 2020, and there are many arguments on where this freeway should be placed, and how far North or South it should be. It turns out all the routes go through some wetlands, and most of them run right next to the neighborhood I'm living in, disturbing the developing fly-way there. A freeway running right next to us will drastically change the feel and atmosphere of the place. And though I don't intend to still be here in 2020, it is a shame, because this neighborhood is not only the only concentrated area in all the township, but it is probably the most friendly and neighborly area in the township as well. It is certainly one of the most so that I've lived in. But that closeness is scheduled to disappear.


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