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‘Just say no’

Posted: October 4, 2012 1:22 p.m.
Updated: October 5, 2012 5:00 a.m.

For some time now, I have been attending Camden City Council meetings, reading letters to the C-I editor and participating in citizen meetings supporting a sports facility referendum.

As a Camden resident and tax payer, I don’t believe it is unreasonable for me to express my concern regarding both the physical size of the project -- 44,000 square feet -- and the $6.2 million estimated price tag to build such a structure. These are staggering numbers that would commit the community to long-term debt, and, make no mistake, that bill will come due. In response to these plans, 2,000 petitioners requested the right to cast their votes in favor or against the project.

Many of us who are campaigning to “Just Say No” in November initially came to council to be informed. We wished to understand why, when their own research group could not give a thumbs-up to the venture, council disregarded those findings and moved forward. We hoped for dialogue and persuasion. We didn’t expect to be ignored, rebuffed, insulted and, finally, slapped with a legal suit. We have been put in a position to defend our right to speak out, and that, citizens, should raise a red flag for all of us, no matter where we stand on this issue.

Whether in favor of the recreation facility or not, everyone should be questioning the actions of the mayor and -- with the exception of Willard Polk, who has consistently favored cooperation -- Camden City Council. Appointed and elected leaders who back such a large investment should not merely want, but should insist upon the clear and overwhelming support of those assuming the financial responsibility that comes along with it.

But once again, this has long ceased to be a matter as simple as a sports complex. Maybe it has never been that simple. Questions have mounted since the purchase of a new property, when many of us wished land already owned might have been considered. The fact that a sitting mayor received a commission on that purchase does not further engender a sense of trust. Neither the mayor nor council seemed to comprehend the negative reaction to this transaction and seem genuinely offended by those of us questioning the ethics, if not the legality, of such a contract.

In the end, our leaders have failed to convince us a sports complex (or Y -- which is it?) is viable. Past experience (three failures of a Y in Camden) argues that it isn’t. The mayor and council have failed to convince us that they are fighting for our interests or, as a matter of fact, that they are interested in what we think at all. Quite the contrary. .  

I am eager to cast my “No” vote, and I think it is reasonable to think that my vote will be counted, that my voice counts. That is the American way, right? Should the majority elect to vote differently than I do, then I must defer to their wishes. This simple and fair process is all the original petitioners requested, and, the real question is, why anyone on council stood in opposition to such a just solution.


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