Our Opinion: Residents’ apathy is clearly evident on issues

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 22, 2005

As reported in the News-Herald Saturday, just 15 people turned out at Nansemond River High School for the first of two public forums regarding the direct election of the mayor.

For more than a decade, city leaders have toyed with the idea of citywide elections for the mayor’s seat as opposed to council determining who should reign as the locality’s most visible political figure. All said, Suffolk mayoral post has been merely a ceremonial one. What’s before the city now is whether to pursue a change in the function of the mayor, and how she or he is elected.

The fact that a mere 15 people came to the public forum is deplorable, and not a remote instance. Traditionally, when citizens are asked to give their say on issues, they stay home. On the flip side of the argument, many residents believe their voices carry no weight and that city council will do what it chooses in the end. While some recent actions by our elected officials give credence to this, this is not an excuse to remain silence when critical issues are on the table that impact our future as a city.

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Speaking of Thursday’s attendance at the forum, Mayor Bobby L. Ralph said, &uot;Attendance…didn’t indicate there was a lot of interest in directly electing the mayor.&uot;

Whether for or against the move, council members need to hear both sides of

the issue. Let’s hope turnout at the upcoming hearing on June 7 at Lakeland High School does not mirror last week.

Oftentimes, residents only make their thoughts known when issues directly impact them. Electing the city’s mayor affects everyone, and the future policies of this municipality.

Apathy cannot be tolerated in a city facing such important issues that could forever change life as we know it here.