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Our View: Your town deserves your attention

Published: Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Much ink has been spilled in this space in the cause of encouraging people to take part in the civic process, seek office, volunteer for committees or, at least, vote.

Civic interest is at an all-time high in Oakwood Hills, as hundreds (although not all are from Oakwood Hills) have attended hearings regarding a proposed $450 million power plant in town. That’s fine. People absolutely should take interest, get informed and respectfully express their views.

But it wasn’t always that way. In the last municipal election in the spring of 2013, there were no contested races in the village of Oakwood Hills, including Village President Melanie Funk’s position, and only 11.4 percent of registered voters bothered to vote.

And while objection to the power plant is overwhelming and understandable, it’s clear from many comments that many residents lack a basic understanding of how village government operates or what it’s supposed to do.

Oakwood Hills isn’t very different from many towns in that respect. People don’t care unless something very specific causes them to care. That should be a lesson for all voters – not only those in Oakwood Hills.

Everyone has loud opinions regarding U.S. presidential administrations, Congressional leaders, even foreign policy, but so few spend any time getting to know anything about the people who make the decisions that could have the most impact on their daily lives.

There’s a great deal of anger over the proposal, which is the fault of village officials who haven’t been forthcoming in letting people know about the power plant proposal and, even worse, shut down village government because of threats that still haven’t been substantiated. And new information suggests the village knowingly, and possibly illegally, discussed the power plant behind closed doors.

But no decisions about the plant have been made. The village’s zoning board will take up the issue again next month. The law requires them to consider the proposal.

In the meantime, we all could learn a lesson about taking a bigger interest in who’s responsible for maintaining the communities we hold dear.

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