Disturbed by editorial on RCT
To the Editor:
Your editorial in the Caledonian-Record (12/8/14) is extremely disturbing to me. I am a resident of Newport and one of the people who had raised a question at our City Council meeting about petitions, petitioning organizations and ballots for our Town Meetings. The issue was reported by Robin Smith on 12/7/14. In that report she made it clear how the issue was raised and by whom.
What we citizens asked was for organizations who have gathered signatures from registered voters over a long period (some for more than 20 years) to be placed on the ballot without having to participate in this lengthy process, repeatedly. At least not annually. Voters would still vote as usual. The exception would be if the amount requested, or other circumstances, changed. Organizations would be expected to report to City Council. We gave examples of organizations such as RCT and Human Services, who provide essential services to a significant population in our area. We made the suggestion based on the number of person hours that it takes to meet signature requirements and the resulting waste of dollars. Time and money that could be spent more productively in providing services. In Newport we already have this policy for some groups.
The editorial distorted several things. The issue was not raised by RCT or any other organization. It was raised by citizens of Newport -- tax paying and voting. Jumping off from that distortion to then blast an organization for "showing their hand" clearly indicated that the writer had not bothered to read the piece written by the paper's own reporter. And that he or she was then free to launch into a diatribe about a particular organization. The editorial then went on to tell Newport what it should or should not do -- again based on an inability to read what a reporter actually wrote.
I have no idea if any of the claims made about RCT in this editorial are factually accurate or not. I do know that the writer was on his/her own agenda, not the one raised at a City Council meeting. There is collateral damage from this approach. It does nothing for the credibility of your paper, using a Bully Pulpit to attack organizations with misinformation is not a useful strategy. The fact that the writer did not seem to know that citizens were the ones under attack, is also problematic. The editorial has certainly done nothing for those of us asking, in our towns, for something we feel is reasonable! Apparently asking questions or making suggestions, now opens us up to questionable editorial techniques. The press have been welcomed at meetings - it is a shame to damage that relationship.
5% of a population may not seem to be a large number to the writer, however, they have to be registered voters. Many of the riders of RCT, and users of the other agencies in similar positions, are not registered to vote so gathering signatures is not quite as simple as suggested. I invite the writer to stand outside on a cold day and try this in person. By all means question the efficiency and accountability of organizations, preferably without devising ways of contributing to their inability to do their job,
And when "trashing" organizations please make sure that your assault is actually based on real information.