Time is a luxury most of us can’t afford.
It seems days in the sun with loved ones evaporate with the haste of melting ice cream during a northern Michigan summer day.
Time is even more precious when we’re talking about our elected officials. The governing groups that make policies impacting us all meet for no more than a fistful of hours each month. Those relatively brief interludes offer barely adequate time to address the issues within their elected offices’ purview.
That’s why we were baffled by the Grand Traverse County board of commissioners’ recent decision to burn hours of meeting time debating a pair of symbolic statements on issues far beyond their reach.
Really, the debate and voting didn’t take long, it was the predictably voluminous public comment discouraging commissioners from pursuing the purely symbolic measures that vacuumed up the hours.
A pair of board members brought forward one resolution in support of a plan to leave Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline intact while the company works to gain approval for and construction of a new pipe in a tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.The second was a move to voice support for the addition of a citizenship question on the 2030 U.S. Census.
The latter is a moot issue for the next decade as court decisions prevented the addition of such a question to the 2020 census.
We’ve already weighed in on the Line 5 issue and disagree any position that effectively would allow Enbridge to leave Line 5 in place indefinitely.
We’ve advocated for clear, do-able timelines for all parties that creates a path for decommissioning without tedious and expensive litigation.
And levying an opinion on an already-decided proposed census question seems downright ridiculous.
We can live with a difference of opinion with our elected officials — it happens all the time.
What we can’t stomach is the board’s flagrant disregard for the issues they actually have sway over.
We can imagine a long list of policy issues that could’ve benefitted from the four-plus hours of attention our elected officials spent on these two symbolic resolutions.
How about a few hours to address the disrepair of local drains and financial issues recently raised by Grand Traverse County finance director Dean Bott?
Or ensuring we have the proper level of staffing in Sheriff’s department?
Or better yet seeing more progress on building a new senior citizens facility?
Or how they’ll address the antiquated computer systems at the county and courts that proved vulnerable to data loss?
Or just a few minutes to protect our waterways by passing countywide septic system inspection regulations?
How about an hour for a meaningful update on the status of the massive pension debt that swallows more than 10 percent of the county’s budget each year?
A few hours setting meaningful long-term priorities for the county, or checking on ones already in place, wouldn’t hurt either.
We don’t know best — and don’t want to dictate — how our county elected officials should spend their time. No, the point is we know how they shouldn’t spend their time.
There may be perfectly justifiable times when local boards should take a symbolic stand and weigh in on a statewide or national issue.
But those most recent resolutions — at least the Line 5 one is a suspiciously duplicative effort copied from other counties — could only be seen as a poor leadership decision.
We all live on a running clock, and the seven commissioners elected to the Grand Traverse County commission are no different.
We hope for thoughtful decisions when it comes to their time and ours.