Ridgeway resident says town officials encouraged divisiveness in dissolution debate

Posted 19 January 2015 at 12:00 am


The debate has been ongoing, contentious at times, and a necessary part of the democratic process. Anyone who has followed the coverage of the dissolution of the Village of Medina knows that there are no easy answers or a neat road map to a destination. One thing is clear: Not all entities have invested the time or effort to inform the public.

I would like to thank Tom Rivers, editor of The Hub; Howie Balaban, former Journal-Register reporter; and Jim Krencik of The Daily News in Batavia. As part of the democratic process, information and transparency are necessary and expected in the gathering of facts.

When Mr. Rivers and Mr. Balaban were labeled as biased by Town of Ridgeway officials, I offered them an apology as this assault on their professionalism did not sit well with me. When efforts to gather facts (FOIL requests) and report accordingly are ignored or openly thwarted, every person depending on unbiased media coverage is DENIED freedom of the press. We still, I think, live in a democracy.

Similarly, when an email was circulated several months ago by a Town of Ridgeway official directing numerous demeaning, derogatory comments at the mayor of Medina, I once again stated that this unprofessional leadership did not represent many Ridgeway residents. Civility and cooperation have not been forthcoming from some elected officials.

It has been alleged that the dissolution committee was not representative of the entire area. I would counter that by simply saying you will be hard put to find a more ethical, fair-minded individual than Chairman Don Colquhoun. He and his committee were faced with a Herculean task and met it with open minds and deliberative purpose. I trust that they did their homework, researched and drew conclusions based on factual information.

One would hope this was the case based on cooperation from other entities! Thank you to this committee as I know firsthand how thankless volunteer service can be at times. Your desire to help find ways to improve, or perhaps even save, our area is appreciated.

After reading, researching and trying to stay informed, one issue remains overwhelmingly frustrating for me, especially after attending the theatrical performance Wednesday evening at the high school. Why are the taxpayers forced to pay for a PR person to orchestrate what should be open dialogue between citizens and elected officials?

As is my usual practice when attending a meeting, I prefer to stand in the back. This vantage point opens an amazing assessment of the dynamics of the event. So I have a few questions that result from my viewing of the event. (The event was billed as a Q & A.)

Why did our elected officials surrender their responsibilities to a PR person, failing to speak openly throughout the process rather than at a staged event? Were their prepared statements written by each individual or the PR person?

Why were the little slips of paper containing questions turned over to the PR person in the back, edited and then given to another person for further review?

Why were the men with the microphones directed, by the PR person, to certain members of the audience?

Why did the men with the microphones totally ignore one individual in particular? Was it because this individual would have opposing views? (This individual moved three times, visibly trying to be recognized and finally succeeded.)

Why were individuals who had supporting comments allowed to read lengthy statements while others were cut off?

And Why, when no announcement was made by the moderator, was a seated member of the audience told by the PR individual NOT to video the proceedings? The out-of-town TV personnel were tripping over their camera tripods videotaping throughout the meeting and yet the PR person had the authority to tell a member of the community not to do so!

My observations of this event is it was staged, manipulated, a waste of taxpayer money, and saddest of all our elected officials see the need to talk through a hired representative rather than doing their job of personally representing their constituents.

As a resident of the Town of Ridgeway for nearly all my life having been raised in the village, now a rural resident, I believe this affords me at least a reasonable perspective of what this way of life has meant to me. My husband and I currently pay taxes on a home and 78 acres. Previously, we farmed several hundred acres. I understand the different lifestyles and value each.

However, in today’s world survival may be measured by an ability to see the bigger picture, looking beyond policies which once worked or dwelling on territorial enclaves.

This is best done when people are represented by elected officials who do just that: represent – not a paid PR individual who, in my opinion, just may have orchestrated more divisiveness than unity.

Our community of Medina, Ridgeway and Shelby deserves better. It could be ONE when open minds work together.

Maureen Blackburn
Town of Ridgeway resident