Just because it's carved in stone, doesn't mean you can't re-carve that stone. This was one of the first, and most important lessons I learned when I became a trustee on the Clarenceville Board of Education. Another lesson that I very quickly learned, was that if you are wrong, the best course of action is to admit the error, and take corrective measures.
Shortly after I was elected to the school board, I was faced with a vote on an emotional issue involving our ability to continue to have a gymnastics team. I cast my vote based on emotion, rather than on reality. I went home feeling really good about myself, as I was on the right side of the vote.
The following week when Gary, my board mentor, came back from vacation, we had a really contentious conversation about the issue. Cuss words were spoken, furniture was broken, and we parted ways in disagreement. That night in bed, when I do some of my most honest and sincere thinking, I came to the conclusion that my fellow board member was right, and that I was wrong. As much as I hated it, and as big a blow to my ego as it was, I knew I had gotten this vote wrong.
Swallowing my pride, I called him the next day, and I admitted my feelings, and asked what could be done. This is where I learned how good of a friend and mentor that I had. Gary never rubbed my nose in it. He simply said that it sucks to have to make some of these decisions, and that I was gonna do just fine. He said that if I was losing sleep over a decision, I would be the kind of board member that could be counted on to make good decisions.
He also taught me another valuable lesson. He said that just because we carved that policy in stone, did not prevent us from re-carving that stone if it was in the best interests of our school district. At the very next meeting, I took responsibility for my wrong decision, by bringing this issue to the table for reconsideration. It was not a fun thing to have to do for a new member, but it was the right thing to do, and in the end, we got the policy right, and I gained a little respect from my fellow board members. The most uncomfortable lessons, seem to always pay the most long term dividends it seems.
This brings me to the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees in general, and Supervisor Richard Reaume, and Clerk Nancy Conzelman in particular.
Recently, the Board of Trustees voted by a 4-3 tally, to prohibit Plymouth Township from entering into any authority type of agreements with the City of Plymouth. This motion was made by an angry Ron Edwards, it was made by a man who has a beef with a couple of people in the city. It was not thought out, and was not even on the agenda for consideration. It was a spur of the moment motion made by an angry man, hell bent on revenge.
I am picking out Conzelman for the spotlight, because she is the newest member of the board, and has the least amount of experience. She voted in favor of Edwards motion, and in my opinion, she had the incorrect vote, on an emotional issue. I have been there, and done that, as I expressed earlier.
It is at this point that Supervisor Reaume would be wise to exert his leadership and experience, and have a mentoring session with his inexperienced clerk. His time would obviously be wasted on Edwards, as you can't easily change the person whose personality is so deeply rooted in confrontation, and anger. He could not easily persuade Kay Arnold either, as she is a stone on this board, and will not be willing to swallow enough of her pride to admit she was wrong on an issue. I think Mike Kelly could have another look at this with an open mind, but it would be much easier to try to persuade Conzelman, and hope that her ego will not be a deterrent to reversing an incredibly silly policy.
Mr. Reaume is a smart guy. He knows that you do not blow up bridges with folks you may have to do business with on another day. Nobody can predict what kinds of things that the township will want to be involved with in the future, that would be in the city of Plymouth, and he voted to keep this door open.
In my experience on the school board, I was a Republican surrounded by, for the most part Democrats. I learned very quickly that you have to put personalities aside, put ideologies aside, and do the job that the people elected you to do. You have to find ways to coexist with folks that you might not go out for a beer and a burger with, so to speak.
The Plymouth Township residents don't give a rats patoot whether Ron Edwards has grudges with somebody in the city. They don't care about these things. They want their elected officials to do their jobs, and put political, and personal issues aside. Mr. Doroshewitz, Mr. Curmi, and Mr. Reaume, correctly understand this, and they wanted nothing to do with Edward's motion.
I actually found something very interesting and unfortunately ironic about what transpired at the January Board of Trustees meeting. While Ron Edwards was stating that he wanted nothing to do with the City of Plymouth, and while me made a motion that was passed, to remove any chance of the township and the city doing business for the rest of his term, there was a calender hanging on my refrigerator.
The calender hanging on my fridge was produced and mailed out to every Plymouth Township resident by this Board of Trustees. On this calender were points of pride that this Board of Trustees chose to highlight. They used each month as a different point of pride, to show residents how nice it is to live in Plymouth Township.
The page that my calender was turned to was obviously January. The picture? The Plymouth Ice Festival. Where is the Plymouth Ice Festival? Well, it's in the City of Plymouth.
How terribly ironic that on the night that this Board of Trustees voted to basically divorce itself from the City of Plymouth, their own calender was using the city to brag about how good the township is. If you go to the November page, the City of Plymouth is also displayed, and a picture with Central Middle School, home of the proposed PARC project can be seen as well. Terribly ironic.
The bottom line is that these two great communities are indeed one. We are one Plymouth in the eyes of our residents. That is how it is, and that is how it should always be. If the folks in our communities feel that way, it is the responsibility of our elected officials to act in a manner that reflects the views and wishes of these people. The City of Plymouth elected officials have done just that, and that is a good thing. The job now, as I see it, is for the elected officials in Plymouth Township to act in kind, and reverse this incredibly irresponsible decision.
If Supervisor Reaume truly believes he had the right vote, he will bring this issue back to the Board of Trustees for further consideration. He will also approach Clerk Conzelman and have a discussion with her.
A heart to heart talk between Reaume and Conzelman could go a long way in correcting this mess. He could remind her that it is unwise to burn bridges with folks that you may need to do business with in the future. He could remind her that a majority of the folks who are now angry, actually voted for her, and will most certainly be voting in the next election as well. He could then tell her that any policy that may seem to be carved in stone, can be changed just as soon as they decide to re-carve that particular stone.
There is no shame in admitting that you may have gotten a vote wrong, and then taking steps to correct it. The shame comes if you allow pride and ego to get in the way of what is best for your community...