During the McBride and Valemount municipal election forums last year and again at the town hall meeting in Valemount last week, several speakers who came up to the mic prefaced what they were saying with “I don’t live in town.”
What most of them meant was they don’t live within village limits, but rather in the regional district, many just one or two streets away.
I understand that for a village council forum, people don’t want to complain about services they are not receiving. But I fear their apology goes too far.
Even for a person who thinks of most distances in walking distance, I find it curious that so many people point out on a regular basis that they don’t live in the village but rather “Cedarside” or “Hillside Dr.” or any of the numerous roads that fork off the highway or village roads.
Do they feel their opinion on village issues is somehow invalid because they ‘commute’ three minutes from Cedarside? I hope they aren’t abnegating responsibility for village issues or feel powerless to change them.
If we begin to make distinctions about identity and the worth of opinion based on our local street address, we begin to fracture our sense of community wholeness.
In such small villages we can’t afford to exclude people who live outside village limits, nor can we afford to say they have no responsibility in helping to raise up the town. Their actions and decisions impact us all.
Saying people who live outside village limits can’t express an opinion on village issues is almost as silly as approving that Main St. separate from the rest of town, or having a trailer court declare itself an independent republic.
Moreover, when people are excluded from participating fully in their nearest commercial and service hub, they take their good ideas and enfranchisement elsewhere.
Certainly during elections where you live changes who you’re allowed to vote for. Those living in the regional district vote for a RD rep instead of Village Council. Those who live outside village limits pay taxes to the regional district for their services. Those living in village limits pay a standardized amount for sewer, water and garbage collection.
But everyone who lives in the vicinity of the village uses the same roads, the same stores, the same schools, arenas and parks. We all care deeply about the community.
Let’s stop making these distinctions and self-limitations on whose opinion matters. The more opinions the better. And anyway, sometimes, it takes an outside view to see the real picture.