Addressing discourse in Dean
Residents of Dean Township in northeastern Cambria County have had three weeks to digest the friction-filled goings-on at their municipal government’s monthly meeting on April 5.
Even now they should be unhappy about what occurred, regardless of their position about the controversial issues of that evening.
Municipal business should not be conducted under such conditions.
It is verbal confrontations and out-of-order attitudes like those of April 5 that sometimes evolve into something more longstanding and fractious. Township residents should consider themselves above accepting such situations.
Going forward, neither state police nor other types of security personnel should have to be present at meetings to ensure that order is maintained; a state trooper attended the session in question.
Even with the state trooper present on April 5, the meeting goings-on devolved to the unacceptable.
Beyond that, when a family newspaper — in this case, the Mirror — could not print certain relevant quotes from the meeting in their entirety because of the crude nature of the language voiced, that too is a problem for residents and others who depend on newspaper coverage of municipal agendas and events.
And, even though township business eventually was transacted that evening, immediate adjournment would not have been out of order when shouting and inappropriate language began to replace proper discourse.
It is reasonable to suggest that the two township supervisors who remained mostly silent during the meeting’s verbal fisticuffs erred in not voting immediately to adjourn the session until some later time.
Adjournment under such circumstances should be the policy, going forward.
The conduct during the most controversial portion of the meeting showed little regard for rules of good judgment. Above all, it is important to note that the issues most controversial were not on a scale worthy of being referred to as earth-shattering or budget-busting.
Supervisor John Wagner, who was the target of most of the complaints emanating from the residents in attendance, defended changes he had implemented, such as changing locks to protect township assets and records.
“I fixed the door at the water treatment center because you could essentially knock it open by hitting it with your shoulder,” he said. “Public safety is essential. Before, anyone could go up there and mess with the water.”
He added that he was proactive in making changes because of a general lack of safety throughout the township’s assets — a situation any community should abhor and seek to correct.
Whatever has been festering in Dean Township needs to be defused — quickly and maturely. When controversy overtakes a meeting or general municipal operation, sometimes the municipality’s most important issues don’t receive the attention, discussion and evaluation that they deserve.
That can have negative consequences long beyond a meeting.
On April 5, once the meeting quieted down, some of the residents chose not to stay.
They probably should have remained — to watch how the supervisors handled the regular business at hand. They might have gained better understanding of the responsibilities, work and challenges that their officials accepted when they agreed to serve the community.
The conduct on display April 5 was not appropriate for any municipality large, small or in-between.