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Editor's Column - Speak up in 2012

January 04, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry, Review Editor

While the Arab Spring uprisings, unrest in Europe and occupy movement in America grabbed headlines last year, our community had its own surge of outspoken protests.

Nobody was fighting for civil rights, jailed or died but, unlike past years of relative indifference amongst Lake Orion's citizens, I think the ire of many people who live here grabbed attention.

Scores of teachers, parents and other members of the public spoke out at school board meetings regarding ballot proposals, union contracts, budget cuts and bullying. Business owners banded together to make a stand at village council meetings regarding their StreetScape struggles.

Concerned citizens jammed township board meetings to voice their displeasure with the expansion of our landfill. Others questioned the board's decisions on how it spends money and balances the budget. A few vociferously asked why some local ordinances are not enforced, while others questioned the sense of some rules.

There even was a group of folks who took the time to get in front of our legislators in Lansing to share their pointed thoughts on education reform.

Maybe the most heartening pleas for help, however, came from those in our community who gathered and demanded we all work together to help our young people make better decisions that could very well save their lives.

I watched many of these people speak at meetings and events I attended as part of my job over the past several months. I agreed with some, others not. I would have given my opinions, too, but my role these days is to report yours.

Quite frankly, it was exciting to see so many folks passionately informed and engaged in local issues that impact all of us. And many were not afraid to express their opinions in public.

I commend them for stepping up for what they believe in and entering the public discourse, rather than simply complaining amongst their friends.

There will be plenty to talk about this year, as well. The school district and Orion Township will continue to make tough decisions in the face of dwindling revenue streams. Gov. Snyder is not done, either, in remaking this state. I am not sure how much the local business climate will improve. What can be done to help our children? We have national and local elections this year, too.

While our leaders sometimes appear to begrudge people speaking their minds, I think deep down they know this is what makes our country great.

I hope to see even more people joining me at the school board and township meetings, attending community forums and other gatherings. If you have a strong opinion on an issue or subject, speak your mind. A lot of people may actually agree with you.

If you are too shy to speak in public, set up a meeting with our school administrators or township leaders, or give them a call. Call Sen. Marleau or Rep. Jacobsen in Lansing, or make it a point to attend one of their local citizens' meetings.

If you prefer to put your thoughts in writing, pen a letter to our leaders or send one to this newspaper. Call me about a guest column. We also plan on hosting another citizen forum later in the year, where a new group of people will have the chance to share their thoughts.

The bottom line: I hope you continue sharing your concerns about our community. If you need to be a little loud sometimes to get your point across, so be it. Just do it in a respectful manner.

Speak up, for it is your right as an American.

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