I feel like I must begin this column by stating that I will defend the practice of publishing opinions on a page titled “Opinions” in newspapers until I am practically blue in the face. In the age where it’s hard to turn on a cable news network without having to watch a panel of experts give their opinions, I celebrate and defend the right of newspapers, their editorial committees and their opinion writers to publish opinions, both of their own and those of members of the community. That is the beauty of newspapers. They welcome all opinions. You can have your own voice within our pages, and we welcome your letters to the editor.
To put it simply, we know you don’t always agree with the opinions that we publish, and we aren’t asking you to. Opinion pages are designed to provoke thought. I believe strong journalistic standards remain solid in many print newsrooms across America. The larger newspapers, like the Quad-City Times and Des Moines Register have the luxury of getting to employ full-time staff whose sole purpose is to research and publish opinions. Here, we wear a lot of hats in a market our size. I answer phones some days and despite my title and opportunity to publish a weekly column, my primary objective here in Muscatine is to work with advertisers to meet their goals whether it be to sell more product or inspire people to take some sort of action, like voting. Because of that duty, we have structured ourselves to make sure that I am only a liaison and cheerleader for our talented newsroom. I do not drive or edit the stories that appear on our pages. Even when struggling to wear all of our hats, we work very hard to make sure ethical journalism remains No. 1.
So, here we are, publishing the last opinion page before our city’s municipal election, and I’m tasked with finding the words that are appropriate to appear on this page. The Quad-City Times published an editorial on Sunday that our readers both loved and hated. I’ve had requests to publish it again here on this page and requests to tell the other side. Some of you may have noticed that I try to keep things positive in my column, support the activities in the community and occasionally inspire thought without pointing fingers. Someone once said to me, “It must hurt to have to be so politically correct.”
But I don’t view it that way. It’s not hard, and here’s why. All of city council members and mayors, past, present and future are MY people. They have been coaches, neighbors, volunteers and supporters. They are fathers and mothers to people I know. They have had successful careers here in Muscatine. They have worked for, contributed to and in some instances even owned many of the businesses that have been part of my life since birth. This is my town, and those are my people, in good times and in bad. And I think it’s time we all started treating them like that, but we ask the same in return.
We ask sitting council members whether they are up for re-election or not to understand that the public outcry has been fair and just. The court’s recent ruling that due process was violated, in my opinion, helps to represent many of the opinions I hear on the street. Don’t get so caught up in your need to defend your actions that you can’t see why some members of the community are outraged. On the flip side, I think it’s important for those crying foul to see that council-members were acting under legal counsel.
And to those candidates who enter Tuesday’s election, bound and determined to win and go in fighting: be careful you don’t make the same mistake. Don’t go in pre-determined you know everything. You probably don’t.
I’m not angry that local industry takes an interest in and supports candidates. We need those with the most at stake to care about the future of our community. How many parks, swim centers and gymnasiums would we have without the support of our local industry? I support their efforts to have a voice. But, by the same token, I also do not fault candidates who garner the support of local or even national organizations such as unions. I think they, too, deserve a shot at having a voice in our community. Variety makes us unique, just as gender and race does. We need to encourage and celebrate those differences.
Take time on Tuesday, if not before, and make your voice heard. Vote.
To all of the candidates, incumbents and sitting council members: thank you for raising your hand to serve, and to their families for their sacrifice, as well. It can’t be easy being under scrutiny, but it must be rewarding to also make a difference in the positive news. I look forward to more of the latter, but there I am again, the eternal optimist.