Wrong time, place, tone for Faller’s remarks

THE INCREASING LACK OF civility in public and political discourse is more and more disconcerting.

To see that seeping down to the local level is especially disturbing.

Granted, public and political discourse has never been entirely genteel at any time in our nation’s history – one of the prices to be paid perhaps for freedom of speech. But at times it seems to be more strident, shriller and more vindictive these days – and harder to tune out.

In local non-partisan bodies like town boards and city councils, civility and respect are more prevalent, fortunately – which makes all the more jarring when those things are ignored, as happened at last week’s Plymouth City Council meeting.

While City Administrator Brian Yerges was making his presentation of the proposed 2015 city budget, Alderman Jim Faller decided to take that opportunity to make untimely and over-the-top remarks on one item in the proposed budget – a $100,000 contribution to the Plymouth Education Foundation for the proposed Plymouth High School Food Science and Agriculture Center, with the money as part of the 2015 city capital projects budget and not coming from any departmental operating budget.

That donation was approved by the council in June, with Faller casting the lone dissenting vote – a dissent which he continued last Tuesday.

That is fine – and certainly his or anyone’s right – but the city administrator’s budget presentation was not the time or place to continue that opposition.

There was no action or discussion on the budget scheduled for last Tuesday’s meeting, only a presentation of the budget for informational purposes. A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for the council’s next meeting, Nov. 11, at which time the council will debate and take action on the proposed budget, including making changes to the budget.

That would have been the time for Alderman

Faller to express his continued opposition to the

Food Science building donation and he should do so then.

But if he does so, it should be without the intemperate remarks and accusations that characterized his comments last week.

Faller questioned City Attorney Crystal Fieber’s integrity by accusing her of a conflict of interest, as she is also president of the Plymouth Education Foundation.

Fieber had no vote on the donation by the city and the request for the city’s participation came from school district officials and not from Fieber. She took every step necessary to insulate her role as city attorney from the request for a donation to the building project and to charge otherwise is unfair and untrue.

Faller questioned why PEF still needs the city’s donation as it exceeded its $1 million fundraising goal by $66,000 – with the city’s donation included, it might be noted.

It’s a legitimate question – although the district would still be $34,000 short of its goal if the city donation is withdrawn and would have to restart its fundraising effort.

But he went too far by remarking that the PEF could throw “quite a party” with the city’s $100,000 donation.

That was an unfortunate comment. It impugns the integrity and honesty not only of the Plymouth Education Foundation but also the community and business leaders who led or contributed to the fundraising effort. It was uncalled for and insulting.

Alderman Faller can and should be able to question city budget items and seek changes if he feels they are warranted. But that should be done at the right time and the right place, and without impugning or insulting the integrity or honesty of others without support.

At issue:
Food Science center opposition
Bottom line:
Uncalled-for attack

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