Democracy is Messy


Teaching students the finer points of the spelling bee at Archer School


“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made”–Otto von Bismark


Our current Village Board has been criticized recently for not being cohesive. The Trustees “cannot agree on issues and the Village President has had to break too many ties.” I don’t enjoy having to break ties. But it’s part of my job, and I will dutifully accept that responsibility when it comes my way.

It is true that the Village Board has been indecisive on major agenda items over the past year such as: covered bridge repair or replacement, video gambling, and long-term capital infrastructure funding and the policies guiding this. By nature, democracy is necessarily messy when dealing with issues that split public opinion. The Rt. 53 extension, and the fairness of funding public vs. private roads are but two more of the hot-button issues up for debate in the months and years ahead.

I’ll admit, it would be great and make my job a whole a lot easier if the Board was packed with people who all agreed on every issue. But the beauty of democracy is that differing opinions cause individuals to cooperate by working together to look at solving problems from a different angle; perhaps craft a compromise or come up with an entirely new solution. The power of the group is that consensus leads to a better decision than any individual can make.

Direction may seem obvious when looking at a single decision from one’s own personal perspective. However, the Village Board must take community greater good into account, and balance each judgement on how it fits into a multitude of others from the past and into the future.

Collaborative and representative decision making is a very different style than dictatorial. If you run your own business, you may have the authority to call all the shots. The process of democracy calls for putting egos aside. It has no place for someone who is arrogant and has all the answers. Those who practice it must be willing to trust and work with others.

Our current issues are not trivial, and part of making a good decision is to take the time needed to converse with fellow residents, take the pulse of the community, and seek public opinion. Long Grove is at a crossroads of change in many ways. Downtown ownership is going through a transition. Further economic development, and housing which may involve multi-family or mixed use will be a part of the discussions relating to the update of the comprehensive plan. Road improvements on Old McHenry, Aptakisic, Rt. 22 and even possibly Rt. 53 will affect the traffic in our Village and impact our lives on a daily basis.

Civil discussion and debate, careful consideration of facts, and resident input are all a part of the process leading up to a vote of majority opinion. And once a direction has been identified, support of the entire Board, respect for the individuals who sit upon it, and acceptance of the collective decision that has been made is essential for any democracy to succeed.