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Don’t berate council members, they did their job


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Some contend the Havre City Council tried to slip the new drinking in parks ordinance through without being open about it. But that is simply not true. The Parks and Recreation Committee has been discussing since September the change to give a procedure as to who is allowed alcohol in certain parks. All committee meetings have been posted and printed in the Havre Daily News agendas section. The meetings have been open to the community, but rarely has anyone attended. The newspaper has provided extensive coverage on each meeting. An article was even written before the first reading of the ordinance change to inform readers of the pending vote, and yet, no one spoke against it in early April. Then, a sudden maelstrom of angry complaints against the change came at last week's council meeting. People exercised their right to public comment and asked questions about the issue, which we heartily support, but the questions should have been asked months ago. The point of public participation is to be involved in issues while new policies or changes are being developed. Suddenly becoming involved after-thefact does no one any good. In fact, it might have a completely opposite affect: Public officials won't have public opinion or input while they work to draft policies on issues that will directly affect residents, and residents will feel like their concerns are going unheard when officials move forward with those policies. The Parks and Recreation director was in favor of the ordinance and worked with the committee to draft a permit that, once the ordinance was changed, would create a uniform process for granting permission for alcohol in select parks. The new process ousts the previous one of arbitrarily granting or not granting permission based on subjective factors. It saves the parks director the headache of angry calls and streamlines the park reservation process to let her know who is using the parks and when. The intent of the ordinance is not to allow people to have beer in the park while they spontaneously get together for a pickup game of basketball. It's to allow people to plan to toast the happy couple at a wedding reception or to allow beer at a family reunion, actually making the city's parks more accessible to people rather than less so. The onus on this one belongs to the constituents who didn't seek out any information about the change council was proposing. Ill-informed people have no place berating others for decisions that have been open and a long time coming. Talk to your officials, learn what issues they are discussing and add your voice to make a constructive local government


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