John Simon March 28, 2020
KNOW YOUR VILLAGE COUNCIL & THEIR POLITICS
I am writing this article because I am very upset about the outcome of a recent Franklin Village council meeting that voted to install additional sidewalks in Franklin — both within and outside the Historic District.
The Village Council of seven voted 4 to 3 for sidewalks at the estimated cost of slightly under 2 million dollars. This decision of the Council was done without asking residents their opinion via a poll or a ballot proposal. This Council decision was particularly disturbing in light of the fact that in both 2009 and 2016 residents had voted against a ballot proposal for sidewalk installation. At this most recent Franklin Council meeting I and others spoke their objections to sidewalks. I asked the Council to refrain from voting on the sidewalk plan until they had obtained a clear idea of what the residents wanted. I also asked Council members what evidence they could provide that led them to be confident that their vote would represent the desires of the majority of the Village residents. My question was never answered and the vote by Council was taken.
Later in the meeting after the sidewalk issue had been voted on and approved, I publicly asked the Council President why she had been so resistant to obtaining opinions of the village residents through a ballot referendum. She avoided a straight answer by stating that on the contrary the Council had been very interested in learning the opinion of residents as evidenced by at least two special village meetings which allowed residents to voice their opinion. Of course, there was no effort at these meetings to obtain any consensus by even a show of hands let alone an unofficial vote.
It seems obvious to me that the only reason not to call for a formal Village referendum for sidewalk installation was the fear that once again the proposal would be defeated. If the Council was confident and convinced that Village residents wanted sidewalks then why were they so resistant to allowing them to speak their mind through a ballot proposal.
Clearly, certain Council members believed that adding more sidewalks in Franklin is in the Village’s best interests even though residents might not agree or object to the resulting loss of rural charm and authenticity in the historic district.
I will not attempt to convert or convince those who do not see the value in historic preservation but I would like to speak to those who like me have hearts that beat with that of historic Franklin and feel a responsibility to help preserve Franklin unique, charming, quaint, rural nature and its authentic historic character. We must speak up for Franklin and make our voices heard. We cannot allow those strongly aligned with “Main Street” business interests to hijack the Village Council and in so doing control the future appearance of our uniquely, historic rural Village.
Franklin Village’s Charter very clearly states that the Council has no power to construct any new sidewalks in residential areas. Twice in the past 10 years, proposals to change this provision have been defeated by a vote of the residents. Despite these facts, the Village Council, in conflict with the Village Charter and in opposition to the will of Franklin residents, called for a Council vote that decided, by a single vote, to construct sidewalks.
I am both a 50-year resident and 2-year business owner in Franklin. Franklin is primarily a residential community with a small number of businesses. There is no reason why this small group of businesses should wield a disproportionate influence within the Village Council and, consequently, within the Village at large. However, that is exactly what will continue to happen if residents do not become more aware, more involved, and more influential in the politics of our Village government and in the forces that are molding the decisions of our Council. We all need to make our voices heard in any way we can so Franklin’s government will be more properly representative of the Village residents at large.