ST. GEORGE — For the second year, city officials of all levels are making themselves available for input, questions, criticism and a chance for on-the-ground contact with local residents during neighborhood open house meetings planned through October, the first of which was held Thursday evening.
The chance to host a neighborhood open house meeting is one of the best ways to get closer to the ground level of local politics, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said.
“This is a good opportunity to communicate in another way,” Pike said. “I don’t think you can over-communicate. Here is a way we can take the city to the residents.”
The plan is for the city to host open house meetings and become a mainstay of Pike’s time in office.
“It is an interesting position you are in as an elected official,” Pike said. “Ultimately we are elected by and work for the citizens of St. George. We need to remember that, get out and connect, respond and field questions on a wide variety of topics.”
It is better communication and transparency that motivates the reason to host the open house meetings, Pike added.
As the country marches toward primary elections and a general election in November, city officials say national divisions have a ripple effect. No matter the political viewpoints, no one is listening to each other.
Political science experts say that although it’s like comparing apples to oranges when discussing federal government versus local government, there are similarities when it comes to transparency and communication.
“People, especially on the national level where the government isn’t quite as close to the people, it’s easier to (communicate) on social media,” Pike said. “This is unfortunate because you will not win over anyone by calling people names or being rude.”
Pike advocates for respectful political discourse that is considerate of diverse opinions, something that city and county governments tend to embrace the most.
“This is a benefit of local government,” Pike added. “The closer to the people that government can be the better.”
We are all working, living and playing in the same community, Pike added. Everyone, including citizens, business owners and politicians share the same fears, joys, pessimism and optimism.
“It can only be better to have more frequent communication,” Pike said. “If you can’t communicate with your government, things will boil up. And if they are unresolved can explode.”
In-person, face-to-face meetings are key and act as a pressure valve, he added.
“Local government is where the rubber meets the road,” Pike said. “It’s natural we all will have lots of questions. This is our every day. We need to be available as elected officials so that we can answer the questions and make corrections and improvements where possible.”
Newly elected St. George City Council member Gregg McArthur echoed the mayor’s thoughts.
“I love that the city is hosting open house meetings,” McArthur said. “We are the people’s voice, and we want to know what they would like to see, what they embrace, and represent those views.”
The second annual open house event is something McArthur supports, saying it is a “great” way to get to know better the mayor, city council, city leadership and department representatives.
Weighing in on the question of the disconnect between federal government and residents in every county across the country, McArthur says it is interesting the choices facing America’s voters.
Identifying as a conservative, McArthur supports decisions to be made closer to the people at the local level and policies that strengthen city and state control.
But, McArthur also believes that the political discourse in the U.S., especially at the national level, has blinders on to each others’ concerns.
“We are all American citizens,” he said. “As a politician, we all want the best for our communities and our country. The rhetoric has gotten to the point that many blame everyone else. There are big contention and dividing lines in this country right now.”
McArthur would rather those at the federal level take a page from the local government playbook.
“Everyone should work closer together for the best outcome,” he said. “It is sad there is such a great divide right now.”
McArthur is proud of the collaborative political model that exists in Washington County.
“We do a really good job with the political entities working together,” he said. “Sure there are different beliefs, but in our county, our community, it is a lot more open. People are willing to listen and work with people that have different views.”
The key to a functional government for both McArthur and Pike is to listen to the people, and, if required, build a better mousetrap to make things work for future generations.
“I will always be listening,” McArthur said. “I will have my beliefs, but I will always listen to all points of view and decide accordingly.”
The city held the first 2020 open house Thursday at SunRiver, with three more planned throughout the year.
- April 9 at Vernon Worthen Park, 300 S. 400 East, 6-8 p.m.
- Sept. 10 at South Mountain Community Church, 3158 E. 2000 South, 6-8 p.m.
- Oct. 22 at 2450 East Park, 130 N. 2450 East, 5-7 p.m.
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