Highlighting conflicts is hard, but necessary for community growth

This week's Iola city council meeting shows why, although it's difficult to navigate tensions between neighbors and friends, addressing conflict helps to promote healthy and forward-looking communities.



June 30, 2021 - 9:47 AM

Firefighters discuss purchasing a new fire engine during Monday night's Iola city council meeting.

As a newspaper publisher, I find it difficult to write about the underbelly of local politics.

After all, I want Iola to be a shining star.

So I struggled in reporting on Monday night’s city council meeting. 

Do I say that local firefighters are at odds with their chief? Was I reading too much into their body language when they sat at a distance from each other? And what was I to infer when firefighters were invited to give their two cents about their chief’s report on a new fire engine? 

By all appearances, it seemed somebody was eager for a showdown. 

And I thought, “This is not a healthy environment.” 

So let’s bury it. The less people know about the discord, the better off we’ll be.

Trouble is, this kind of infighting only worsens in silence. 

COUNCIL members need to be able to trust that city  administrators will deliver them the best options possible, whether it’s for sewer repairs or new purchases, such as a $600,000 fire engine.

It’s the administration’s job to do homework for the council — research the vendors, get the quotes, parse the specifications, investigate possible funding — so that members can make informed decisions. 

Likewise, administrators need to be able to trust that council members will not make a habit of second-guessing their work.

Otherwise, why try?

The toughest part about being a leader is making unpopular decisions, when instead, you can win friends by doling out favors. That’s why politics is addictive. Everyone loves to be the hero.

But that’s a very privileged world.

It takes tough skin for public leaders, especially, to keep the public good as the focus and not let personnel issues cloud their decisions.