Lakewood OH
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Private grumbles should be public rumbles

We all like to complain.

Even those out there who never seem to have a bad word for anything (don’t you just hate them?) must, at some point, have something that gets under their unruffled feathers. Besides, living in Cleveland it’s our birthright to complain – about the weather, sports teams, etc.

A gentleman called me the other day with a complaint. He felt I wasn’t doing enough to publicize the plight of the city refuse collection. I told him, Yes, the city is considering, merely in the talking stages of, privatized collection. I told him at this point, there wasn’t anything further in the wind on the subject.

He suggested I go on the attack. Find out what’s behind “garbagegate.” Not really interested in the difference between opinion and balanced journalism, he accused me of not doing my job and getting the scoop on this issue. I told him that while it wasn’t my particular style to rake muck (I promise, that’s the last rubbish reference), there were several forums where his voice could be heard.

The Internet is, no doubt, the most popular place for folks to vent. It’s fairly anonymous and there are few rules. You can say whatever you want, however you want. At the end of our West Life posted stories is a place for comment. Looking back over last year’s articles, I could probably count on one hand the number of remarks made. One respondent suggested, when I was interviewing Lake Road business owners about last year’s construction, that I get some resident input. When I asked for that input, the silence was deafening.

There’s also that old standby, the letter to the editor. This is where, within reason, citizens can express themselves on any topic they wish. As long as you put your name on it and keep it clean, this is your right. Some folks do take advantage of this option, but there is another that few use. That is the city council meeting.

When I attend the Rocky River City Council meetings each Monday at 8 p.m., there’s the usual handful of council groupies, although there have been a few times when the audience consisted of yours truly. (If you really want some “me time,” come to a planning commission meeting that does not involve tattoo parlors). A recent council meeting was led off with a public hearing for the city budget, which this year, took longer than usual to balance. When it came time for public comment, no one came forward. I wasn’t surprised, but I was amazed.

Amazed, because I had been hearing some grumbling about items included in the budget. People complain to one another about everything from administrative salaries to leaving lights on in unoccupied rooms to how many flushes per day are registered in city buildings. This year, of course, many people are talking trash. I thought for sure someone would show up to quiz council about the fate of the “trash scooters” which allow refuse collectors to pick up garbage at residents’ doorsteps.

But no.

Had my caller attended that budget public hearing, he could have told his city representatives what he told me. He could have expressed his concerns and demanded to know what was going on. But he didn’t. Neither did others who are worried about what privatization will mean to what has been a valued service for many years. Had these residents gone to this meeting, they would have heard the mayor state that the budget is tight and does not leave any room for refining rubbish.

Which probably means things will stay as is.

When I asked one complaining resident which he would rather see cut, the police force or trash scooters, he fumbled for a bit, and then stated there was a way to have both. I invited him to the next council meeting to share his ideas. He abruptly muttered something about reorganizing his sock drawer (I think) and sped away.

We do like to complain. We just need to make sure we are bending the right ear.

 

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