Political antics deny public’s right to know

July 19, 2012  PLYMOUTH EAGLE.

Leaders in Northville, Canton, Westland, Inkster, Belleville and Romulus got it right. Those in Wayne and Plymouth Township, not so much.

The League of Women voters, despite the opinion of some local politicians, is nothing like a group of Neo-Nazis.

We thought we would make that clear since apparently there are some elected officials who believe that it is accurate to put the two groups in the same classification. One is an organization dedicated to bringing information about various candidates of all parties to voters and never supports or opposes any candidate. The sole purpose of the other is to promote a particular political viewpoint and often, candidates

That comparison was made last week when The League of Women voters was denied use of Plymouth Township Hall for a candidates forum. One Plymouth Township trustee informed the group vice-president that to allow the League to host this open forum would then force the township to allow Neo-Nazis to use the building.

We think that is third-grade logic. and unclear thinking.

Particularly when we look at the policy several other local municipalities have adopted which does not allow any group promoting a specific political agenda to use municipal buildings for any function. That, we think, is a reasonable effort to respect the political views of the entire community, which funded the construction of these buildings. We don’t feel that the taxes paid by devout Republicans should be used to promulgate the views of their Democratic opponents, or vice versa. Likewise, we don’t think buildings funded by taxes paid by Christian Scientists or Quakers should be used to promote a Neo-Nazi platform.

Leaders in Northville, Canton, Westland, Inkster, Belleville and Romulus got it right. Those in Wayne and Plymouth Township, not so much.

Not too long ago, officials in Wayne also disallowed the use of their city hall for a candidates forum sponsored by The League of Women Voters. They based their refusal on the same poor logic and unclear thinking that was in evidence last week in Plymouth Township, with a little political ego added to the mix.

The candidates forum planned by The League of Women Voters for this month was cancelled after Plymouth Township Supervisor Richard Reaume abruptly rescinded permission for use of the township hall citing a “township policy.” When it was pointed out that no such policy existed or had ever been adopted in the township, he asked that the League representative withdraw the request.

That didn’t sit well, as one can imagine, with the vice-president of the group who has lived in and paid taxes in the township since 1975. She felt she was entitled to a little more consideration and far less misinformation, and attempted intimidation, about the situation.

That led to the supervisor planning a special meeting of the board of trustees for the sole purpose of adopting a policy preventing political groups from using township hall—-which might be an inconvenience to all those who have been using it, like State Sen. Kurt Heise, for meetings. That plan, too, was aborted and left some citizens standing on the sidewalk outside township hall wondering exactly where their elected officials were. One former board member specifically recalls League of Women Voters organized meetings at township hall during his tenure on the Plymouth Township board. It occurred to us that in both these recent instances, incumbents seem less than willing to engage challengers in any meaningful discussion of issues. In Wayne, the mayor said publicly that he was offended at the procedures followed to set up the meeting and that league representatives had insulted him by not asking him before other candidates. In Plymouth Township, we suspect several incumbents didn’t want to be asked some very embarrassing questions about their recent conduct. Their solution? Simple. Refuse to have the meeting.

Plymouth Township officials already overtly displayed their willingness to violate the constitutional rights of the public when they had to be taken to court four times before allowing residents to vote on a public safety issue. Once again, they seem to be willing to trample on the rights of the very people who elected them to avoid having to face questions about their decisions and conduct.

If the issue really were one of access to all groups, it is not a difficult matter to author a municipal policy or procedure which clearly differentiates a group providing valuable, unbiased information about all candidates from those espousing a political platform. It really isn’t too hard.

If they need help, they could certainly ask their neighboring communities who have done it successfully.

What they should refrain from doing is insulting or demeaning a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing information to voters so they can make an informed choice at the polls. Unless, of course, the aim of these incumbents is to keep the electorate as uninformed as possible.

We’ll see what they have to say, if anything, at the candidates forum which has now, we understand, been rescheduled after the American Civil Liberties Union showed some interest in the conduct of the Plymouth Township officials.

Board of TrusteesCanton Township ElectionTownship
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