Disagreeing Agreeably – Debate must remain civil and courteous

Thursday, March 26, 2009
By Cary Shuman

Tuesday night’s Town Council financial forum provided a lively discussion about the town’s financial future and the Proposition 21/2 referendum election scheduled for May 19. The forum was a good start in a process that leads up to one of the most important (if not THE most important) elections in the town’s history. The meeting was well attended and, no doubt, scores of other residents watched the meeting on cable television.

Council President Thomas Reilly, the other eight members of the council, and town department heads answered questions directly from residents who stepped to a microphone in the middle of the hall.

There was a passionate address by Interim Town Manager Larry Holmes, who said although no one wants to pay any additional taxes, the town must step up in these extraordinary circumstances to help maintain the quality of services that residents have come to expect.

However, there were some moments of discord, such as when one resident claimed the Parks and Recreation Department was somehow being mismanaged. It’s a known fact that Winthrop’s Recreation Department is one of the finest in the state. Sean Driscoll, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, calmly and professionally took the microphone and spoke about the hard work of his department’s staff. Our Parks and Recreation Department is a model for other towns throughout the state to emulate. The success of the newly-founded Winthrop Youth Basketball League is the latest example of why the Parks and Recreation department has become a valuable town resource under Driscoll’s leadership.

We mention this particular discussion because we think it is imperative that all residents, no matter what their point of view, make known their thoughts in a civil and respectful manner, and not resort to making outlandish accusations. This is a small town, and no matter what the outcome of the override may be, we all will have to live and work together after May 19. We can assure everyone reading this column who may be inclined to speak with an angry tongue that what will be remembered most is the manner in which you deliver your words, even if what you have to say might make sense. No one wants to be thought of as mean-spirited or ill-tempered, but that will be your legacy for years to come if you speak harshly of others.

More than perhaps any other time we can think of, we all need to heed the admonishment to disagree without being disagreeable.

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