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Citizens won't be silenced by actions, words of city leaders

Posted: September 15, 2011 11:32 a.m.
Updated: September 16, 2011 5:00 a.m.

This edition of the Chronicle-Independent may well contain a front page story by reporter Martin Cahn detailing the events at the Camden City Council meeting of Sept. 13. As reporters are properly tasked to present facts free of emotion or judgment, the actual tone of that council meeting may not be accurately reflected in Mr. Cahn’s article. I submit this letter, therefore, for those citizens not able to attend that council meeting, and who must rely on Mr. Cahn’s version of fact.

Mr. Cahn probably did not use the words “condescending” and “arrogant” in reporting on the lengthy civics lecture that was dished out by Councilman Pat Partin to the citizens in attendance. As Partin attempted to point out the differences between a democracy and a democratic republic, the implication was clearly that as an elected official, he knew what was best, would let the people know what was best, and that we should just sit back, be quiet, and trust him and his cohorts, Councilman Walter Long, Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford, and Mayor Jeffrey Graham. Councilman Willard Polk is evidently excluded from this cadre, as his every word is rejected, his every motion dismissed for lack of a second, and his every suggestion ignored. 

Is there any verbiage in Mr. Cahn’s reporting that includes the words, “disdainful,” “insolent” or “rude” in describing the attitude of the council cadre toward those attendees who eloquently spoke in the public forum, all voicing opposition to the proposed partnership with the YMCA of Columbia in building a recreation center/sports complex? Was it noted how those citizens were curtly dismissed at the five-minute buzzer, with Mayor Graham rudely cutting off one gentlemen at his final sentence? Readers should know about Councilman Partin’s attempt to shout over and silence one of the speakers, and how he chastised two of the citizens, referring to one county resident as a “tourist.” Did Mr. Cahn suggest that the local merchants should be outraged at the position of this city administration toward the thousands of county residents whose support is critical to their shops and restaurants? Heaven forbid that all those county “ tourists” start taking their business to Sumter or Columbia, and stop paying taxes to this unappreciative city. Had Mr. Cahn interviewed me, he might have reported how embarrassed I felt to be a Camden resident, sitting next to county residents who were simply trying to express their opinions, and how compelled I was to apologize to them for the disrespectful attitude of Camden’s officials.

Is the word “patronizing” found anywhere in Mr. Cahn’s article regarding the demeanor of Councilman Long when he recited a laundry list of concerns that he understood the constituents may have, and then churlishly dismissed, since he knew what was best?  “Churlishly” probably isn’t in Mr. Cahn’s report, either.

I’m sure that Mr. Cahn factually related Councilman Polk’s motion to table the Memorandum of Understanding with the YMCA and call for a referendum, which would give the people the opportunity to express their desires by voting on the question on the ballot. Surprise -- no second, so there could be no discussion. But probably not included in Cahn’s article was the observation of the latent fear of the mayor and his cadre for the voice of the people!  Why? What are they trying to hide? Why are they so fearful of the element of the civics lecture that Mr. Partin chose to omit -- DEMOS -- the populace and its voice. One citizen speaker even commented to the council that they could actually be heroes if they would do just that -- listen to the people. Could it be that the cadre already perceive themselves as heroes, benevolent dictators, here to save us fools from our foolish thoughts?

I also attended the council work session Sept. 8. Again, I felt a deep sense of embarrassment and incredulity at the antics of Councilman Partin, who seemed to spend the better part of the first 45 minutes having a discussion on whether or not to have a discussion, all the time pointing out how inefficient these work sessions will be with having to take minutes -- how much staff time will be required to transcribe and how, surely, this expense will be a disservice to the taxpayer. Oh yes, and how he has nothing to hide, is always open in his dealings, and gee, why doesn’t anyone ever telephone him? He also added something about how little he gets paid, and how much time he gives. Mr. Partin reminds me of the adage that goes, when you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one that gets hit yelps. Mr. Partin, my how you do yelp!

 I do recognize the hours of time required to serve on the council, and I do appreciate the willingness of those who serve. But I do not appreciate service with strings attached, and with a disdainful arrogance that belittles the people who are simply asking for explanations and input.

As duty called me elsewhere, I could not stay any longer, listening to Councilman Partin’s self-serving yelpings.  Unfortunately, I did not get to hear what I came for, which was the presentation of Mr. Madden (YMCA CEO of Columbia). I only thought, had I been he, listening to the infantile rantings and ravings at that meeting, I would have run as fast and far as I could -- never wanting to partner with the likes. Mr. Cahn probably couldn’t suggest such a thing.

For months there has been much verbal and written opposition to the plan to partner with the YMCA-Columbia. That opposition has been met with insulting and offensive responses by city administration.  The  words “insulting” and “offensive” are surely not found in Mr. Cahn’s reporting, and rightfully so, as he is charged with simply stating the facts. But to the many Camdenites who have not been able to attend the council meetings and who rely on the Chronicle-Independent to get the story, I hope this letter is helpful in understanding the disparaging attitude of the mayor and his cadre. Thankfully, as this is America where the voice of the people matters, Mr. Partin, I appreciate this opportunity to share this letter with my fellow citizens, and to ask for their support in a referendum initiative. Although Mr. Polk’s single voice of reason falls on deaf ears with the mayor and council, it is up to us to assure him that he is being heard and that we intend to also be heard in a collective voice to remind the elected officials who elected them and who will gladly unseat them. 

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