It’s not like we’re talking direct democracy here, or a plebiscite. People in Stellarton should be entitled to a public meeting about the future of policing – if for no other reason than to avoid accusations later on that they weren’t consulted.
The issue came up at Monday’s council meeting, with differences of opinion splitting along a similar line we often see.
As council ponders four options for policing the town, Coun. Denise Taylor suggested setting out a timeline – and also holding a public meeting, an idea supported by councillors Ken Francis and Judith MacLellan. The response from Mayor Joe Gennoe was they might have trouble finding a place big enough, that 3,000 or 4,000 people might show up.
That’s quite a stretch, and the mayor might have been exaggerating for some reason. He did make the astute observation that people who attend would tend to have self-centred interests. That can be a tedious reality of public meetings, although not a reason to avoid them.
As for thousands attending, Taylor expressed doubt. But let’s say the majority of voting residents in the town – plus other stakeholders – were clamouring for such a forum, that’s all the more reason to offer it.
Town council is entertaining four choices in this bid to rein in policing costs, one of Stellarton’s biggest expenditures. None are bad options, but one might offer unique advantages – benefits that often become more apparent through increased discussion involving the public.
The more technical matters, obviously, such as dealing with contracts, pensions and personnel will be in the hands of town officials.
Don’t underestimate the public. Such a meeting might see a lot of vented feelings, maybe even some tangential thought, but there also could be some good suggestions. Council will ultimately make the decision, and it will be, as Francis put it, one of the biggest they make during their tenure. But the public’s input can help make it a more informed one.