My Turn: Agreeing to disagree with some civility

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

Since when must elected Assembly members surrender precious First Amendment rights and the privilege to express an opinion in the local newspaper?

Because I questioned the wisdom of spending $430,000 of public money, I am now labeled "vitriolic, politically biased, a community embarrassment a deceiver, attacker, divider, hiding the facts," etc. It gets worse. In responding to my "My Turn," four letter-writing, self-proclaimed "moderates" used descriptors like "vicious, attack-dog, avowed, never, right-wing, blindly, without merit, blatant, tripe, orchestrating to divide, controlling, extremism, hot head" I'd hate to see what would happen if my opinions really rankled these folks.

Take note that not one fact that I presented was disputed by any of the writers. They all just interpret the data from different vantage points and selectively use it to advance their opinion. That's what free Americans have the privilege of doing guaranteed by our precious Constitution and Bill of Rights.

These letters contrasted sharply with Mr. Wheeler's informative response that was well-mannered (not slinging attacks) and presented information as I did. In both of our opinion pieces, we communicated information to the public from each point of view. There's nothing backroom about that. Remember, there are people in town who have a keen interest in what's happening but can't make the Monday meetings.

The discussion at last Monday night's Assembly meeting was cut short because even over the objection of four members, the call for the question ended our ability to gain and produce additional facts and information.

Since that Assembly meeting, very constructive discussions have taken place. Because of the additional brain-storming and problem-solving that has occurred, other options have become available that I believe will produce better library facilities sooner, for less money and in a more accessible location for children. The options also ensure that the recreation center-swimming pool that I campaigned for and have always supported will be at the top of the list without spending public money for additional city land.

Other Assembly members and I often disagree on issues at our meetings but we treat each other with civility and just agree to disagree. That brings meaningful debate and both sides of the issue to the table.

If I ever feel like the constituents I serve are not fully informed of the actions at City Hall, I will use every medium I can to make sure you get up-to-date, important and detailed information. I'll get you the data and trust you to decipher and decide your stand on the issues.

Passion it's a great characteristic. It creates important impetus to get the job done, to charge ahead with vigor. It usually evokes an equally passionate opposing view.

As long as I'm getting such rave reviews by "moderates" like Mr. Thoma, Ms. Metcalf, Mr. Behnke and Mr. Geldhof, I'm encouraged to know I'm on the right track and doing the best job possible for all points of view in Juneau.

*****

Anderson is a member of the Juneau Assembly.



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