Disagree, but don’t label as ‘dishonest’

Occasionally, given my exposure to the activities of the Town, I feel the need to issue a sort of “reminder” when it feels to me like the discourse surrounding Town issues is getting off track. “Off track,” the way I mean it, is when the discourse devolves from a mature discussion of the merits of a particular issue, into the realm where people are accusing those with whom they disagree of being dishonest, uncaring or bad people.

I know, after many years with the Town’s elected officials, that without exception they only want what they believe is in the Town’s best interest. Contrary to what is said on social media, these elected officials give many hours with no pay, nor benefit other than the satisfaction derived from helping the Town reach its goals.

We must acknowledge this fact. There will always be legitimate disagreement among citizens on almost every issue with which the Town deals. Many citizens do not recognize, because they are not continuously involved in the processes used by the Town, that leaders and staff are involved in extensive processes, all of which are open to everyone, that are aimed at establishing the long-term goals and priorities for the Town.

These priorities are formulated only after being discussed and debated in multiple public meetings that are announced and advertised. Long-term goals such as those included in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (the “CLUP”), necessarily involve many opportunities for input by interested citizens.

Unfortunately, almost every issue of major conflict recently has been a disconnect between differing opinions held by those who have been involved in these processes and those citizens who have not been so involved.

One recent example is the experience regarding the consideration of the proposed Town Center development at the Biddle family farm. Leading to 2012, almost 10 years ago, a series of public meetings were held to establish the “big-picture” priorities for the development of the Town. The result was the 2012 CLUP which lists the goals and objectives that thos,e who participated felt the Town should strive to accomplish.

The 2012 CLUP is published, advertised and used by the Town not only as a work plan for the staff and elected officials, but as an expression to its citizens, and the outside world, of the direction in which the Town would seek to go in the future.

While the proposed development plan for the Biddle property may not be perfect, it addressed in a very positive way six of the top eight priorities established by the 2012 CLUP.

I was taught that having given your best effort, one should be a gracious winner, but never a sore loser. It would never occur to most of us to pitch a fit because others held a different view than we did on some issue. If your views are correct, then formulate more persuasive arguments that will both enhance your credibility and show the wisdom and logic of your view.

But, don’t use half-truths and innuendo to tear down those who are the ones making long-term investments of themselves in the thankless job of leading the Town.

Not having the time myself, I am thankful for those public servants who are giving their time and effort to study and plan the goals they collectively conclude are best for the Town and its citizens.

Even if you differ with them on an issue or two, appreciate and respect all of the hard work that goes into the decisions that have made this Town the envy of so many others.

Thomas M. Hale

Town of Farragut attorney