As entertaining as recent Northfield Selectboard meetings may be for people who enjoy TV shows where people behave badly, what’s been happening isn’t good for town government ... or for the residents they represent.
It puts a damper on people who want to see their town shine, something we know that all of Northfield wants.
What we’re seeing is the very malaise that has gotten hold of political life on the federal and state levels — where the level of discourse sinks to new lows as the volume goes up. Meanwhile, little of substance seems to get done on the behalf of the electorate.
People in Washington, Boston and now seemingly Northfield, seem to have forgotten that people can disagree without it disintegrating into acrimonious behavior.
And there’s also a misconception that being heard equates to a preferred outcome.
If anything, the exact opposite is the case. Yelling, interruptions and other obnoxious behavior only puts people on the defensive and makes them STOP listening. This, in turn, decreases the odds that they’re going to come around on their thinking.
Maybe that doesn’t matter for Northfield residents whose mentality can be described as “my way or the highway.” But in a place that prides itself on neighborliness and fostering a sense of community, this kind of self-absorbed and narrow-minded behavior does not speak well of the town.
In this particular case, the disagreement over allowing police Chief Leonard Crossman Jr. to work part-time while he recovers from ankle surgery also can’t be helpful in attracting candidates to replace him when his contract expires in eight weeks. Instead, events like these are likely to discourage some good people from applying.
And that hesitation to join Northfield in such a high-profile position doesn’t stop with hirings.
Small-town government is dependent upon residents stepping forward to participate, whether in running for elected position or volunteering to serve. The process also depends upon others willing to add their voices to discussions about matters of community concern.
But antagonistic and disrespectful actions at meetings, particularly aimed at those serving the town, can result in dissuading residents from participating.
We don’t think that this is a conscious effort, but it can have a chilling effect on people and the town.
It’s up to Northfield, and those residents to whom this editorial applies, to cure itself by changing behavior.