Mayor’s attitude troubling
In the 1970s, the Blair County borough of Newry had a councilman who would obstruct progress at the start of meetings, sometimes for close to an hour, by objecting virtually nonstop to entries in the written record of the council’s previous session.
For the benefit of people unfamiliar, that official record is known as “minutes.”
For practically all units of government, the task of approving minutes is one of the most routine, mundane responsibilities on the meeting agenda.
However, back then in Newry, a resident wishing to address the council, or just attend to witness the official municipal goings-on, was able to leave home a half-hour or 45 minutes late and still arrive in time to see council members vote “yes” or “no” regarding what had transpired the previous month.
Meanwhile, anyone sitting through one of the protracted minutes discussions for the first time might have pondered this unflattering question:
“Is this really what local government is all about?”
Now in 2021, about a half-century after its close neighbor to the south’s journey through the quicksand of protracted, usually useless discussion, the borough of Duncansville is in danger of becoming mired in the trap of a questionable opinion and attitude.
Is this really what should be happening in local-level government? The answer to that question is easy: No.
What is occurring has no place, neither in a community of Duncansville’s size nor in places much larger. Like in Newry a half-century ago, the issue at hand could end up squandering valuable hours that could be much better spent and much more productive.
What needs to happen in Duncansville is this: Mayor Erik Fritz’s refusal to provide sought-after police information to borough council members must cease.
Even though the mayor, in a community of Duncansville’s size, is in charge of the police department, that doesn’t give the mayor dictatorial power to erect a shield around department information about which council members have an elected right to be apprised.
Council members have asked Fritz for information related to officer scheduling, and he should comply with that request without further refusals. Council members, who prepare a budget each year that includes funding for the police department, have a right to know how the department’s money is being spent.
That includes accurate information about the way officers are being scheduled.
Individual borough residents do not need to know — and should not generally know — which officers are working and when. And, beyond borough residents, there absolutely should not be any hints given to the general public about hours when the borough is without on-duty police protection — for obvious reasons.
However, council members have a right to know the department’s operational details and Fritz should comply with council requests for that data.
Also, friction has no place within the borough government in Duncansville, but Fritz’s attitude about the requested information is a basis for some, and that is troubling.
Newry was caught in a trap involving meeting minutes 50 years ago. Duncansville must not become caught in a trap over hours now.