Joseph's Mayor-elect Dennis Sands made some jaw-dropping comments during last Thursday's City Council meeting, at which a number of citizens appeared to discuss a recent budget-busting and possibly illegal decision by four councilors (incidentally, there's a private recording of this meeting).
Mayor-elect Sands addressed the assembled public after their comments, which had been conducted very respectfully: cautioning that Joseph is a small town where we'll meet in the post office or the grocery aisles the people about whom "all these e-mails" and "rumors" are being circulated and "all these letters to the editor" are appearing, potentially needing to ask these same people for donations to our pet causes; therefore, it would behoove us to be respectful.
At least three audience members hearing Mr. Sands' lecture discerned a threat. Given recent ugly actions directed at a Joseph resident who dared to participate in public processes, that isn't idle conjecture. Interestingly, the mayor-elect's concern for respectfulness did not extend to speaking out against the "whisper campaign" to which a recent candidate for city office was subjected; it existed, those who were party to it know exactly who they are, and many others became aware of it.
I hope Mayor-elect Sands, whose campaign promise was to restore "common sense," simply misspoke. It's difficult to interpret his lecture as anything but an implication that citizens have no right either to seek to become informed or to inform others via newspapers, or to discuss and/or object to council actions through exchanging e-mails via our private computers, and that there could be repercussions for those who do so. Coupled with the public comment by one citizen that "nobody who hasn't been willing to put their names on the ballot should be criticizing you" (also on the tape), it's clear that the concept of constitutional principles and the rights of "We the People" have a tenuous hold in Joseph.
At risk of appearing disrespectful, I encourage the citizens of Joseph to be watchful and to stay alert. I certainly intend to, and so informed the council - in the "approved" open forum.