City should welcome variety of viewpoints

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 12, 2013 

The city of Beaufort is looking for people to fill several positions on its boards and commissions, but volunteering isn't always as simple as raising your hand: Some seats come with prerequisites, such as experience in a particular occupation.

But a prerequisite laid out by City Councilman Mike Sutton should be ignored:

"If you disagree with what we're doing in this city, do yourself a favor and don't serve on these boards," Sutton said Tuesday, when the council interviewed several applicants during a work session at City Hall.

Beaufort hardly suffers from an abundance of contrarians in influential positions. Quite the opposite. Too often the city steams ahead unchallenged with plans crafted by the like-minded. They change course only when people fuss.

Sutton was careful to invite "constructive criticism," but that's a hollow invitation in the context of his get-on-board admonition. Sutton would allow new board members to debate ... what, exactly? What type of paper the Civic Master Plan should be printed on?

Still, Sutton's candor can be helpful. He states explicitly what has been implied by others in office, on staff or already on a commission. That is, all change is for the better, and loyalty to the change agents is the people's civic duty.

Beaufort belongs to its people, not its government. Seats to be filled are on a variety of panels that would benefit from varying viewpoints:

  • Tourism Development Advisory Committee.

  • Historic District Review Board.

  • Zoning Board of Appeals.

  • Election Commission.

  • Beaufort Housing Authority.

  • Tourism Management Advisory Committee.

  • Certainly, anyone satisfied with the direction the city is going and has the time, qualifications and inclination to volunteer should do so. The same invitation should be extended to those not as satisfied.

    As City Council makes its appointments, it should ensure boards, committees and commissions are made up of diverse interests and viewpoints. Yes, this might give rise to dissent. So be it.

    A spirited body is far preferable to an echo chamber.

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