Local disputes must be handled better by all

State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove recently dismissed an appeal by Frankford resident and 2012 town council candidate Greg Welch in which he argued that town officials had not acted properly in refusing to delay the town’s recent election “to allow proper voter and candidate registration.”

This comes on the heels of the state’s attorney general’s office shutting down a complaint from a group of concerned citizens in Ocean View over how that town’s council membership operates.

Our point here is not to undermine the efforts of the complainants who took their argument to a higher authority. Actually, it’s quite the opposite, on many levels.

We applaud the citizens in both Ocean View and Frankford who took their concerns up the proverbial food chain. It is important that residents of a town take an active interest in the goings-on of their town’s leadership, and it’s a good sign when the public seeks clarity or a decision on matters that relate to they ways their towns conduct business.

An unchecked government often operates like an unchecked government. That’s not to disparage any of the local municipalities, or county or state government. It’s a simple observation of human behavior — people naturally get a little lax on rules if nobody is around to enforce those rules.

That being said, we’ve also noticed that both Frankford and Ocean View appear to be suffering from disconnects between leadership and the people they were elected or appointed to serve.

We’re not putting that entirely on the officials’ plates, either. The decisions in both the Frankford and Ocean View cases went in favor of the towns, implying that they were legally acting above board.

But here’s the problem: Both towns appear to be squarely divided. We don’t say that simply because paperwork has been filed in both towns. We say that because we talk with people in both towns, on both sides of their respective arguments, and know that many of these disputes evolve (or, more accurately, “devolve”) into conflicts that take on more of a personal nature.

This is counter-productive. When any dispute becomes personal, in any town, it usually gets to the point where no middle ground can be reached. That does nothing to improve the quality of life for the town as a whole, and instead often results in two distinct factions — with neither side willing to give ground.

We want citizens to continue to battle for their rights. We want town officials to fight for what they believe is best for the most people. We just want the sides to come together to make it happen.