John Stuart Mill once said, "If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives Americans, including ALL North Tonawandans, five rights: free speech, freedom of religion, free press, freedom to assemble and the right to petition government for the redress of grievances.
The last one is essential to maintaining a democracy. If you've ever phoned, emailed, or written a letter to a public official, gone to a Council, School Board or County Legislature meeting, you were exercising your right to petition government for the redress of grievances.
Attempts in the last decade to gradually deprive North Tonawanda residents of the opportunity to attend these meetings by making them all on the same evening, displaying disdain on the part of the people leading these meetings for resident's opinions when expressed in what is supposed to be a public expression portion are a violation of our rights. So is covering the "meat" of the matters before them at "workshop" sessions instead of at public meetings and having the majority of "public" meetings last only 5-30 minutes.
Freedom of the press is needed for the search and attainment of truth, scientific progress, cultural development, the increase of virtue among the people, the holding of governmental officials to republican values, the strengthening of community, and as a check upon self-aggrandizing politicians. Republican values does not refer to the GOP. A "republic" is a state in which supreme power is held by the people AND their ELECTED representatives.
Free speech, freedom of the press guarantees we have as Americans apply equally to all levels of government as well as all branches of government. Free speech guarantees extend to all viewpoints, good or evil. We ALL have the right to express our opinions. Our elected officials are not given the right to prevent expression of or to ignore those opinions.
Sweeney Payne is a columnist. Columnists, per a recent article in the Buffalo News by Alan Pergament, "are allowed to put themselves into a story and express their opinions." Reporters are not. Sweeney Payne and the citizens of NT he represents are grateful to the Reporter for providing us the opportunity to make our voices heard without fear of retaliation from those who are supposed to be our public servants.
We've heard via the active NT grapevine that some elected officials have been privately approaching locals and attempting to intimidate whomever this Sweeney Payne columnist is into going away. "The word" used to be that an employee of another paper that printed "anonymous" comments would often pass on to elected officials the sources of comments We're proud to be able to express opinions and concerns of so many residents through Sweeney Payne without fear of harassment.
Our concerns are NOT a Republican or Democrat issue. They are NOT a Republican vs. a Democrat issue. They are a matter of equal representation under the law for all citizens of NT. Informed opinions are not possible for us to make if local officials don't tell us what we need to know BEFORE they act. Representation is NOTrepresentation if the opinions of ALL of us are not important to public officials.
We aren't accusing in this column. We're asking questions necessary because of the lack of transparency in NT City government for far too long. We're using this medium because our public servants don't treat us equitably. We hope those currently in office will become true public servants, living up to their fiduciary duty to ALL of us, and "fix the mess!" OUR input as residents is supposed to be their marching orders—NOT costly studies and recommendations by consultants who don't live here.
Citizens (taxpayers, residents and voters) of North Tonawanda need to stand up and insist on what we ALL want in North Tonawanda, or we'll continue having a Rut City reputation for our streets, flooded streets and basements, slow response to fire and emergency calls, limited police patrols, more taverns and restaurants the majority of us cannot afford to eat in very often—if at all, few businesses serving our needs, requiring us to shop in other communities, and no access to or views of our marvelous waterfront because they don't care what we want. They are already planning to put industry back on that waterfront when they cannot even get industry to locate on the Buffalo Bolt complex. Savvy citizens deserve input on public projects.
ALL citizens matter!