KATIE ZERR: Be armed with facts to win an argument

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Monday’s Mobridge City Council meeting was a prime example of one of the major problems gripping the city, this state and this country. The refusal to be involved and informed.

People refuse to learn how government works, what is going on at city hall, in the chambers of county commissioners, in the state legislature or in our nation’s capital until an issue has an impact on them. Then, armed with bits of information, they try to construct an argument that becomes counter productive.

One of the first lessons we should learn from our parents is to pick our battles. Next we learn when wading into battle be sure to be armed with the means necessary to ensure victory or to provoke the change we desire.

During the discussion about the re-designation of a year-old front-footage assessment to be used to fund another phase of the Mobridge storm sewer system, a resident who was aginst the assessment altogether asked  if the assessment was brought to a vote of the people. She questioned how the council could choose one project (the railroad crossing) over another (the Second Avenue storm sewer).

This is a prime example of why people should pay attention to what is going on around them. This is not a new issue. The Second Avenue storm sewer project has been part of the discussion of the plan for Mobridge for many years. This council, and many previous councils and administrations, have studied the problem, looked for solutions, formed a plan and have searched for outside funding sources over the at different times for more than 10 years. This is one of the phases of infrastructure improvement plans that are an ever-evolving strategy to upgrade the system and improve the lives of Mobridge residents.

This is not a new issue. It has been in the news and on the radio and television for many years.

It doesn’t take a lot of work to get information needed to formulate an argument that will lead to a positive, informed discussion. A person armed with facts and reasonable evidence to back up a cause can provoke a conversation to bring about the desired change.

When a person brings bits and pieces of an issue from the past, armed with anecdotes and accusations, the cause is lost from the beginning.

Bringing up the railroad crossing project, without knowing the circumstances and the history, and using it for a basis of an argument on changing an assessment designation was not arming oneself with information that could make, and possibly win, a point.

It only turned the majority of people listening to the argument off to her cause. This hearing was not a debate of an issue that was previously beat to death in this community, but a formal hearing to meet the requirements of the law for the designation of a fund.

The time to argue against the assessment was the multiple times it was previously discussed and before it was voted on last year.

There is no excuse for not knowing. Once again, if a person does not read a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch television, there is always sitting in on a council, school board or commission meeting and finding out for oneself.

The fund was originally established to be used exclusively for storm sewer projects such as the Second Avenue West project, but not designated as such. The hearing was about changing that designation.

To quote a wise relative ”If you have a horse in the race, you better know the track conditions.”

One resident at the council meeting asked the members if the agenda had changed and if this was now a discussion on the crossing rather on the original agenda issue. His sarcasm made the point quite clearly.

The council voted to change the billing of the current storm sewer assessment due to difficulty in billing, and to ensure that everyone paid his or her fair share.

Those who have a big horse in this race should probably have been paying attention to what was happening at the track.

 

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