Poor choice of word

It is a common vulgarity and one that everybody has heard from time to time. The F word has, in fact, been heard so often on the streets that it hardly seems shocking any more – but hearing it in the Centre Wellington council chamber on Monday night was indeed disturbing.
We have, in the course of nearly 31 years of covering municipal councils, listened to angry residents many times. But never, in all those years, have we heard the F word used as part of public discourse in a chamber where municipal decisions are made. Sadly, Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said members of that particular group have been using that language with her for well over a year.
The residents of Inverhaugh have a right be be disturbed over a proposal for a gravel pit that they believe will affect their lives. But some of the members of the Pilkington East Ratepayers Association (PERA) have descended into charges of secret meetings and plots by council.
The fact is, they either fail to see, or more likely, do not want to see that council is governed by laws – and it must respect those laws. If lawmakers do not respect the rules, why should citizens? One of the laws states that council can conduct legal discussions behind closed doors. Yelling about it and charging plots and secret deals will not change that right.
The charge that councillor Kirk McElwain is somehow prevented by council from speaking and voting on the Inverhaugh pit issue is patently absurd. That call can be made by only one person – McElwain himself. When he withdrew, it was on the advice of a lawyer. Conflicts of interest are intensely personal, and councillors leave it up to each individual.
PERA appeared to have some sympathy in the community, but the use of the F word probably will reduce it considerably – and deservedly so. When attempting to do difficult negotiations and trying to find ways to govern, using potty-mouth language is a long way from productive – or effective.