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My Way

The death of choice

September 04, 2013 - To paraphrase someone I recently lost any respect I had for, sometimes I feel like I'm living in a Third World country where I have no choices and no voice.

I felt that way as I sat through a four-hour Oxford Village Council meeting last week during which the body decided not to give residents the choice of continuing with local dispatch services or contracting with the Oakland County Sheriff's Department.

The ability to choose is one of those fundamental rights we take for granted everyday until it's taken away from us.

Now, I've made it abundantly clear that I support contracting with county dispatch because I truly believe it will save the taxpayers a ton of money and still provide residents with a state-of-the-art, highly-professional system to handle our public safety calls.

But instead of forcing my will and my opinion on my fellow residents, I'm more than willing to leave it to them to make this decision because I have faith in the ballot box and the democratic process.

If the majority of village voters cast their ballots against being taxed 2.5 mills for local dispatch and spending more than $250,000 annually for the service, I'll shout, "Amen!"

If the majority of voters cast their ballots to continue funding local dispatch, I'll respect their decision and let it be. All I ask is village residents be given the opportunity to decide, the opportunity to make their voices heard.

I don't think that's unreasonable or radical.

However, a majority of the village council doesn't believe the voters need to be asked about dispatch. And legally, they're right. Council is empowered to make this decision without consulting the voters.

Some council members argue they were elected to make such decisions and this is part of their job. Right again.

But where is the harm in simply asking the voters what they think? Where is the harm in asking the voters to participate in this crucial decision? Where is the harm in giving the voters a real choice?

If the three council members who voted to keep local dispatch are so rock-solid sure based on conversations with their neighbors that this is what most village residents truly want, why not put it to a vote of the people and silence the pro-county folks, like myself, with the unquestionable authority of the ballot box?

In my experience, the only time people don't want to ask a question or put something to a vote is when they're afraid of the potential outcome. Agree or disagree with my support for county dispatch, at least I'm not afraid to put the issue to the people.

I don't fear the ballot box. Council does.

The other thing that's bothering me right now is the fact that half of the council making these decisions wasn't elected by the people. And once former village President Tony Albensi's vacant seat is filled this month, three-fifths of council will consist of appointees, not electees.

From now until the November 2014 election, Oxford Village will be governed by a council where the voting majority was not elected by the people.

This council will certainly have the legal authority to govern, but to me, it will not have any credibility whatsoever as far as the decisions it makes.

We're supposed to have a government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. One of the ways we consent is through the routine election of representatives. A council of appointees does not have this consent as far as I'm concerned.

Given the huge amount of tax money connected with the dispatch issue, I don't feel comfortable that a half-elected/half-appointed council made such a final decision.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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