Editorial: Councilor’s choice to survey public with social media was appropriate.

April 25, 2017

henderson_johnson

Editorial: Councilor’s choice to survey public with social media was appropriate. 

Editorial by MCP.

During Monday’s Ludington City Council meeting, the council’s newest member, Councilor-at-Large Brandy Henderson, was admonished by Third Ward Councilor Les Johnson, for using social media to ask her constituents a question about what they thought about the idea of charging non-city residents to park at Stearns Park. Johnson’s point seemed to be not so much about her using social media to survey her constituents but more that she perhaps asked the question prematurely before the topic was an official agenda item. We believe Councilor Henderson had every right, and, in fact had the duty, to post the question. We also believe that since the topic was brought up in committee, that it was indeed a matter of public record. 

Councilor Henderson handled her rebuttal very calmly and professionally and said she respectfully disagreed with Councilor Johnson and that she would continue to do what she believes is in the best interest of her position. After all, she is answerable to the voting public, not her fellow councilors. 

Back in February, a month after taking office, Henderson asked on the Brandy Henderson Councilor-At-Large Facebook page what people thought about the idea of charging Stearns Park visitors to park. The topic had been brought up during a city Finance Committee meeting in November 2016, meaning it was a matter of public record that the city was discussing the topic to address a possible general fund deficit. The item was then sent to the city’s Parks Committee to discuss, which is when Henderson decided to survey the public via Facebook. It is estimated that 80 percent of Americans have a social media profile, of which Facebook is the most popular platform.

The response from the public was overwhelmingly against the idea and caused many people to reach out on social media — in public meetings, and in personal contact with councilors — to express their disapproval of the topic. Quite frankly, it caused people to be engaged in their local city government, something that, unfortunately, doesn’t happen too often. 

No formal proposal to charge parking fees at Stearns Park was ever made and the topic was a suggestion. However, it’s clear that while City Council has never formally proposed the idea, it sure has discussed it. The topic was placed on the City Council’s goal-setting session in early April, taking it out of committee and bringing it in front of the entire council. It was then sent back to the Parks Committee for further discussion. At that time, the committee unanimously voted to drop it. However, Mayor Kaye Holman suggested at Monday’s meeting that the item may come up again in the future.

We live in a republic, which means we elect representatives to be our voice in government — from our local municipal government, to our state government, all the way to our federal government — we have a say in public policy. Government should be transparent at all levels and at all times. Keep up the good work, Councilor Henderson, and don’t let others intimidate you. Remember, you work for the people, not your fellow councilors.

Mason County Press’ editorial team consists of Editor-in-Chief Rob Alway and Editor Allison Scarbrough. This story is copyrighted © 2017 by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced, including in print or broadcast, without expressed written consent. 

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