In my years as a writer for your local newspaper, I've had the joy of being witness to some of the most fun, heartwarming, charitable parts of our community. I've also noticed a severe and disappointing lack of involvement in local government.
I'm usually the only non-employee in a room at my four government meetings each month. At these meetings, the government bodies are regularly discussing important stuff. While I would like to imagine that everyone not attending these meetings is either watching school board meetings online when possible, following the minutes and records from the meetings, or at least reading the stories I write after attending meetings. But I doubt it.
I can usually tell whether someone reads our newspaper (or official records) or just gleans what they can from gossip based on what they say about local government. More specifically, what they don't know.
In some instances, our newspaper has reported on specific government issues many times, in one case once a month for two years, only to have outraged local citizens accuse that government body of secretly making plans.
In other instances, people at public meetings will repeat questions answered at the meeting a month before, sometimes several months before, which we reported on.
There are those who do their best to track their local government through means other than attendance, and I commend them. I still think that even those people, if able, should attend the special meetings our communities hold for important events like bond referendums and road repairs.
That being said, Thursday, April 18, will be the final public information session before the May 14 bond referendum vote at Pine River City Hall to fund school facility improvements. The vote will be one question for taxpayers in the Pine River-Backus School District, asking whether to approve issuing $15,295,000 in bonds to pay for four improvement projects the district has been setting aside for many years.
There have been three monthly informational meetings already, during which most attendees have been school employees or school board members. Those who were neither provided some of the best feedback, questions and perspective and have helped shape the plans going forward.
At the very least, those people received information they didn't have before, and that's why it's important that the April meeting be a huge priority for people who want to be informed. We all like to think we are logical enough and vigilant enough to know what we need to know for an informed opinion, but let's put our pride aside and admit that all of us have a lot to learn.
I am in the unique position that I first learned about the gym renovation plan years ago when the board discussed it for several months before deciding to put the project on the back burner.
I have also witnessed first-hand some of the issues that first made the board discuss an auditorium addition and athletic field storage. Even though I have background information that many do not, these meetings have given me information I did not have before.
Whether you oppose it or support it, voters in the area should be following the plans closely and should consider attending the April 18 information meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the high school media center. They aren't that long, and trust me as a person who attends a lot of government meetings, they are interesting too.