Alway resigns from planning commission

February 18, 2013

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Editor’s note: I do not make it a habit to become part of a story. I personally do not think it is ethical for journalists to do so. However, in this particular case it is necessary. Here’s why:

SCOTTVILLE — At tonight’s Scottville City Commission meeting, the commissioners will be accepting my letter of resignation as a member of the planning commisison. Writing this article is a perfect example of one of the main reasons why I have chosen to resign from the Scottville Planning Commission. Over the past 14 months as the Mason County Press has grown it has become quite clear that serving on a government board is a conflict of interest.

I joined the planning commission in 2010 with the desire to help make a difference in the town that I live in. I believe it is important for every citizen to be involved in their community in some way. We live in a democracy which means government for the people, by the people. During the January meeting, I reluctantly accepted the chairmanship.

After tossing this around for months, I have concluded that my involvement in my community must be through Mason County Press rather than on the planning commission. This became most evident last October when I reported on an accident in which Mayor Joe Baxter drove his vehicle off a ravine. Since that time, the mayor has been charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol. His blood alcohol content measured .08 two hours after the accident. He has chosen to fight the charges against him.

The mayor has cornered me three separate times after various meetings and has told me, in so many words, that I have blown the story out of proportion and that I have saturated it. Anyone else, he said, it would be a quick blurb and then MCP, and the other local media, would move on. I have also been told by the mayor that my reporting on his incident does not give a positive light on the city.

That, I will agree with. The incident did not portray the city in a positive light. Scottville, once a vibrant small town, has had a rough couple of decades. I have chosen to live in this town because of my heritage and a certain level of pride, despite the town’s hard times. Why would I purposely portray our town in a bad light?

As a journalist I would not do justice to my readers and the general public to withhold a story just so it didn’t give the town a black eye. The fact is, the event happened. At no time has this news site ever made an accusation. Instead it has only reported the information available, which is the evidence presented by the Michigan State Police in its crash report along with statements from the prosecutor. Mayor Baxter has refused to comment on the record and therefore his side of the story cannot be presented.

With all that said, those are the two reasons why I have resigned from the Scottville Planning Commission. At no time should I, or any other journalist, make themselves part of the story. I have inadvertently done this through my involvement and I now I will digress.

The Scottville City Commission meets this afternoon at 5:30 p.m. Lisa Enos will be there reporting for MCP.

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