Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Thirty months.

That's approximately how long this latest round of controversy surrounding Chestnut Street has been going on.

Hopefully, it's all about to come to an end soon.

Tuesday, nearly 70 percent of local voters who participated in a city election approved plans first adopted by the Vermillion City Council in December 2000.

We're happy with those results. We can't help but make this observation, however.

Despite all of the publicity, ranging from private advertising to yard signs, and the public hearings, and the histrionics of Frank Slagle at city council meetings, less than 18 percent of Vermillion's registered voters went to the polls Tuesday.

Some may conclude this may mean that people here just don't care about local political issues.

We have another theory (and mind you, it's just a theory). Vermillion citizens are confident in the decisions made by their elected officials.

So confident, in fact, they found no reason to challenge the motion first approved by the Vermillion City Council in December 2000 to improve Chestnut Street.

So confident that they found going to the polls Tuesday as an unnecessary exercise.

We aren't offering this observation as a criticism of the referendum process. We've noted in the past that the ability of citizens to challenge government decisions is an important part of the American system.

We can't help but wonder, however, if the process is open to abuse.

Chestnut Street would be widened and paved by now if the city had been allow to implement the plans it approved approximately 30 months ago.

Hindsight, naturally, is always 20/20. It's easy to look back and say, "We should have just let our elected officials do their jobs."

Local government entities in Vermillion will no doubt continue to make decisions in the future that have the same aura of controversy as Chestnut Street.

The Vermillion City Council is formulating plans to construct a new city hall building.

The Vermillion School Board likely will also have to opt out of the state property tax freeze fairly soon.

These are issues that likely may be referred to a public vote.

As we turn the page on Chestnut Street, and start a new chapter in the book of public policy in Vermillion, let's hope that we can strike a balance between elected officials' duty to make crucial decisions, and citizens' rights to refer those decisions, when necessary, to a public vote.

If we don't, the future progress of Vermillion may fall victim to a growing penchant to question every decision made by local elected officials.

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