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Democracy can help improve community when you take part: Editorial

Posted 6/12/19

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” — Winston Churchill, Nov. 11, 1947

Democracy can be …

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Democracy can help improve community when you take part: Editorial

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“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.” — Winston Churchill, Nov. 11, 1947

Democracy can be messy. It can be slow and boring and tedious, and it can lead to clashes between citizens and officials. It assumes an engaged and informed electorate — and these pieces often are lacking.

But, as Churchill pointed out, consider the alternatives. We are still lucky to live in a society where we can voice our opinions and vote for those who best represent us.

Social media has tweaked our interactions with government bodies and our elected officials. As has been pointed out to the negative with social media, people will type on Facebook, Twitter, et al, things they would never say to someone in person. This goes for elected officials as well. After all, they are people, too.

But recent events remind us that speaking out at meetings and going through the proper channels to voice concerns about what is going on in our community can pay dividends.

In a story on page A4 today, you can read about recent developments with the Williams farm tract in Lower Swatara Township.

As our Laura Hayes has reported, NorthPoint Development, a Kansas City-based company, was interested in buying and developing most of the 239-acre tract. Brent Miles, chief marketing officer and founding partner of NorthPoint Development, came to the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners meeting last week and said that his company had heard from residents and families that NorthPoint’s plan wasn’t supported by the community.

“I want you to hear it right from me, we heard that loud and clear,” he said.

This group of residents opposes the growth of warehouses and commercial properties at the expense of homes.

“Do you want Lower Swatara’s landscape to be warehouses and commercial properties dotted with small residential areas?” asked Barbara Florence, who has been a township resident for nearly 27 years.

A group of residents made a difference, at least in the short term. It’s hard to disagree with Commissioner Ron Paul’s assessment of the situation, however.

“I’ve been here since 1977. Fulling Mill Road was never thought to be lined with residential properties on it,” he said, adding that “I don’t think it’s fair to sit here and just assume that that area will never be rezoned. I think that’s foolish.”

Indeed, while the board must listen to the desires of a group of people, it also must do what is right for the entire township.

The situation in Middletown is different, although many residents feel just as strongly about the situation.

A house going up at the corner of Maple and Adelia streets is a trailer, or a manufactured home, sitting 15 to 20 feet high atop an elevated concrete first floor. It apparently is to combat any potential floods in that area.

Multiple residents objected, and the borough issued a stop work order halting construction May 24, based on what the borough solicitor said were “inaccurate representations” in the permit application.

We discussed in a recent editorial how your vote matters.

So does your voice.

Whether you live in Middletown, Royalton, Lower Swatara Township or Londonderry Township, you have the ability — and the right — to engage local officials on issues that directly affect you, in a way that can’t be done at the state or national level.

Attend meetings. Reach out to elected officials — in ways other than using social media. State your case clearly, calmly and concisely. Be persistent. But also be respectful.

We will end with another quote that has become popular in recent years, by anthropologist Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”