Letter: Billings should band together as a community, not stand divided

Dear Editor:

I’ve watched with interest the passionate public dialogue about the highs and lows of Billings council’s actions and decisions this term so far. As a former member of council, I realize how difficult and thankless, at times, the council role can be while enduring the ups and downs of public opinion. Kudos to those who step up to take on these roles!

I would also like to commend all those community members who take an active interest in local government through discussion, feedback and sharing ideas. Our own Billings Accountability and Transparency policy 2017-41 states, good government follows the principle of:

“Encouraging public access and participation to ensure that decision making is responsive to the needs of the constituents and receptive to their opinions,” Township of Billings, Accountability and Transparency By-Law 2017-41, 3.0(1)

So, really, it’s the responsibility of community members to let their needs and opinions be known through letters, presentations, attending meetings and feedback. It is not the role of municipal staff to hold council to account but it is the role of the community to do so.

I am disappointed in some recent statements from self-labeled supporters of the current council. A couple of commentators have used words like “partisan group,” “inner circle,” “coffee clutch,” “a small group of followers” to put down the people who take the time and interest to follow council activities, offer new ideas and hold their representatives to account. Name-calling will only generate fear in community members and cast a chill on much-needed participation from others.

As a community, we need to encourage all people to stand up and participate. To anyone who’s interested or has an opinion, please come out to council and committee meetings, get to know and understand how your municipality works, start discussions and make things happen! See you there!

Barb Erskine