Friday, October 05, 2007

Thoughts on the terrible event in Clarksville

Doubtless most of the news-watching and reading portion of the State of Tennessee is aware of the awful tragedy at the Clarksville City Council meeting last night at which a man took his own life, shooting himself in the head after his request to have his home re-zoned commercial (his barber shop was located inside of it) was rejected by the Council. The poor fellow believed that based on his present business situation, the Council's vote not to re-zone his property would "put him under." He lost all hope.

People were obviously terrified by what happened, and Council members were so shaken that the Mayor of Clarksville has decided that no further Council meetings will be held in those chambers-ever. I felt especially sad when I heard the news because I saw the deeper lesson hidden in this terrible turn of events.

I honestly cannot say how I would have voted on this man's request because I don't live in Clarksville (and never have) and can't speak soundly to the needs of the community there. I do know that a local council or County Commission can't always vote based on the needs of one or two good citizens-even though they might like to-because the community as a whole would not be as well served if only the needs of one neighbor are considered and not all neighbors. The question of whether it would have hurt Clarksville to re-zone that poor man's property is a fair one for the citizens to ask, however.

If there is one thing to be learned from the death of Ronald "Bo" Ward, however, it is this: Local officials need to remember that the actions they take have a very direct impact on the lives of the citizens they serve. I have preached for years (usually either to the choir or to deaf ears) that local elections and elections for the State legislature are far more important than anything at the federal level, because those officials have a more immediate say in our everyday life. Local officials-Aldermen, Council members, Commissioners, City and County Mayors-should always take into account that their decisions will affect their neighbors for good or for ill, and for years to come. For that reason, no vote taken should ever be taken lightly.

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