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Task force work must be civil

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The Durant City Council will appoint a task force to study and make recommendations on the city’s infrastructure needs. There are some things it would be good to get straight from the beginning.

First, the task force will be charged with helping guide the city into the future. While many disagreements have been voiced in public and on social media, we all agree that something must be done. So, in the interest of moving forward let’s agree to leave the past in the past.

The real and perceived mistakes, misjudgments and bad decisions by previous administrations have been trotted out and waved like flags in the faces of those who disagreed. Even when those complaints are accurate – as many of them are - bludgeoning the opposition with them is not helpful. The only person currently in city government who was part of a past administration is Mayor Jerry Tomlinson and publicly roasting him won’t change the past or secure the future. It is what it is, and we all have to live with it.

Rather than dwelling on the past or placing blame, let’s find solutions. We can’t move forward if we’re constantly looking over our shoulders.

Second, let’s keep in mind that we are all neighbors. We may not be friends, but we aren’t enemies. We have a common goal. No one wants to see Durant harmed. Even those we disagree with. We can be tough on one another, we can debate vigorously, we can even be critical. It is not helpful to damage a person’s dignity or question their humanity.

Those in public life know, or should know, that they are subject to criticism. That goes with living in the public eye. And honest criticism can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be mean spirited and it must always be based in fact. Laying out the reasons that a person is wrong, giving evidence of poor performance by a public official, or deconstructing an argument is not the same as assigning bad motives and making empty accusations.

Un-vetted, and unfounded allegations designed to intimidate or belittle are not the same as honest criticism. Such ill-advised statements are rooted in anger, they are counterproductive, and they poison the atmosphere inhibiting real discussion and progress.

Ultimately, we need to keep in mind that we are talking about asphalt and rocks and rainwater. The task force will be dealing in pipes and sewage and paint. These are important matters to be sure, but in the end, they aren’t worth sacrificing our own dignity or trashing the dignity of those with whom we disagree.

We don’t have to be friends, but we don’t have to be hateful either.

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