Editorial: Fight between Bok and city is a good lesson

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 9, 2006

It is healthy for a government agency to have watchdogs, whether it be the media or the citizenry. The long-standing feud between Albert Lea resident Roger Bok and the city government of Albert Lea is not a good example.

What it is, however, is a lesson in civility.

The city is pursuing a misdemeanor charge for trespassing because Bok reportedly on April 18 plucked the city’s markings in the city’s right of way on the street where he lives. The markings were for a feasibility study on paving the street. Bok at the City Council on April 24, said: &8220;I removed them, and I got so excited I almost did it again.&8221;

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As is the right of the people, we can petition our government for a redress of greivances, whether it is a letter to the editor of a newspaper or speaking at the microphone before a council.

But when all is said and done, we are neighbors. We live in the same community, walk down the same sidewalks, send our children to the same schools and mail our taxes to the same offices. We can disagree and stand on opposite sides of issues, but we shouldn’t let the lines harden.

In the case between the city and Bok, the lines have hardened.

It is wise to &8220;pick your battles,&8221; as the adage goes. Quite frankly, Bok could spend more of his time making his requests for records at the counters of city offices and mailing his complaints, rather than grandstanding at the podium during every meeting of the City Council. By going every time, it lessens the effectiveness, just like the story of the boy who cried wolf. It seems often Bok is there to disagree, rather than get answers and find resolutions.

And, to be fair, it seems the city is hardened to Bok’s comments to the point that middle ground can never be found. Maybe neither has middle ground to be found.

The whole point of the First Amendment is to encourage dialogue. A good conversation &045; whether it is on politics, religion or the weather &045; is a cherished moment. It isn’t supposed to turn into trench warfare.

It is a shame that both sides of Albert Lea v. Bok have had to come to this.