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No More Three Stooges

Citizens of East Longmeadow have the opportunity to view their local government in action via Channel 5 of the local cable provider. After investing several hours recently watching a meeting of the East Longmeadow Board of Selectmen, I am left to wonder if they have any idea of the poor example they are setting for the young people of this community.

Elected officials have historically been held to a very high standard of behavior, as they are generally viewed as being representative of the communities they serve. As such, they have a solemn responsibility to engage each other with a form of civility reflective of the citizenry.

Young people observe behaviors as they grow and create their own notions of what is acceptable based partly on actions they have witnessed. While we wish our children would do as we say, they often do as we do.

Would the current Board be proud to show a tape of their last meeting to our young people as an example of how their town government reaches important decisions?

One could reasonably argue that what I have witnessed lately is equally detrimental to the community at large (not just our children). Only time will tell if their decisions made during this regrettable form of discourse contribute to or detract from the common good.

Contentious matters can, and should, be discussed and decided free of rancor, snide commentary, personal attacks and inappropriate remarks. It is incumbent upon those entrusted with the weight of public service to exhibit behavior beyond reproach and engender trust among those they serve. If they lose that trust, the rationale employed in their decision-making will continually be undermined, leaving many to question their motives.

Public service is serious business. The distractions stated earlier might lead a reasonable person to believe some are putting personal agendas ahead of what is best for this community. The behaviors I have witnessed wouldn't be tolerated in any organization for which I work or volunteer, and they are not representative of most that live and work in East Longmeadow.

In a better world, we would watch the Board's deliberations and be reminded of Messrs. Jefferson, Adams and Washington rather than Messrs. Moe, Larry and Curly. I sincerely hope this current Board can find a way to deliberate in civility, decide in the spirit of compromise and set a better example for the future leaders of this fine community.

Peter Vangsness

East Longmeadow