Sunday, October 19, 2008

Snap Decisions or Considered Judgment?

The editors of the Northwest Arkansas Times seem to have changed their tune about the benefits of thoughtful deliberation in a democracy. In an editorial today entitled, "Let's Think Twice," they explain that our county government has "no need to rush" when making important changes. They are all over County Judge Jerry Hunton and the Quorum Court members because they"wasted little time" in thinking through alternatives before spending millions to buy the Terminella Building and are now rushing without judgment to find adequate parking space that will require additional millions and perhaps taking private property by eminent domain.

"Right or wrong, Judge Hunton ... and the Quorum Court have made both decisions in the space of just a couple months," which the editors point out is relatively "at breakneck speed" for public policy deliberations. "Our advice to the county," they wisely offer, "is this: SLOW DOWN! We’re talking about decisions that we’ll be living with for decades ...." The editors see some value in taking time to consider alternatives and listen to other suggestions before hastily acting on important matters that affect the public and the treasury.

There is hope yet, it seems, for the Times editorial board to learn the value of public officials taking time to make important decisions, taking time to seriously listen to the public, and thinking things through in order to reach the best solution to difficult problems facing our community. Last spring, they were with Judge Hunton in complaining that the Fayetteville City Council should act immediately and not consider all the ramifications of the interlocal ambulance agreement. They were flat wrong. The additional two months of discussion and debate by the Fayetteville Ambulance Committee produced an improved agreement that was much better than the Hunton boilerplate draft that he petulantly demanded and the insistent editors blindly supported at the time.

We are glad to see that editors can learn from experience, even if they don't apologize for their past mistakes in judgment. That is far better than some local politicians who can do neither.

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