Let’s talk about what it means to be heard.
It’s an issue that has been on the minds of many people in Sidney in recent months, as a series of land development proposals has put some residents and their municipal leaders into an adversarial relationship.
As adversarial relationships go, this one has not come to blows. In fact, it’s pretty sedate. In Sidney, community dissent comes in the form of quiet petitions and orderly discourse. Why anyone would feel threatened by such conversations is beyond understanding.
However, the people on the side of the status quo feel their quiet protests should be getting more regard. Yet, is that a fair demand?
Through a variety of venues, people have aired their grievances over proposed higher-density development plans. There is little doubt that local politicians have heard them. If they haven’t, then they are just not paying attention.
Yet, many people seem to have a skewed definition of ‘being heard’.
They can present their arguments and hold the ear of Sidney’s municipal councillors for hours — and they are heard. Where they diverge from the meaning of ‘being heard’ is that they equate it with ‘being obeyed’.
It’s an important distinction, because by insisting that they have not been heard on this issue, they really mean they want councillors to do as they say. That’s an unrealistic expectation of the request to simply ‘be heard’.
The issues raised by people have not been ignored — that would be quite impossible. It can be argued that all aspects of the debate have been considered and were reflected in the decisions made by Sidney councillors.
Where the council must be careful, however, is in their overall attitude towards debate from among their citizens. Too defensive a stance to any form of critique of political decisions, could exude the impression that one simply does not care about the electorate.
And that may be the hardest thing to hear.