Letter to the Editor:
In response to Mayor Svoboda's letter printed in the July 2nd edition of the Chronicle, I'd like to express my disappointment. First, though, I'd like to acknowledge that it's completely understandable that Mr. Svoboda is upset with the theft of his property. Anyone would be. However, printing a letter in the town newspaper with the tone and content expressed by our mayor is counter-productive in a number of ways. It ends up reflecting poorly on the mayor himself, our local newspaper, and indeed our community in general.
First, by calling the unknown people responsible "low lives," our mayor is engaging in public name-calling and shaming of those responsible. While it may make Mr. Svoboda, who again is understandably upset, feel better to describe the tree thieves in such a way, it does not help matters. In fact it likely has the opposite effect. If those responsible do indeed read the town newspaper, what is the likelihood that they might come forward and admit guilt if they've been publicly shamed by being called "low lives?"
Second, that this letter was printed as the very first item in the local paper makes the paper look to be a bully pulpit for our local elected officials, and does not uphold a very high standard of journalistic integrity. As a supporter of the local papers and a believer in the importance of local news sources, I hope for better.
Perhaps Mayor Svoboda could have responded more gracefully, calmly reporting the theft of his property and expressing his understandable frustration in ways that do not publicly shame and belittle those responsible. Further, perhaps Mayor Svoboda could have modeled public forgiveness by offering it to those responsible and treating them as full humans, and offering a constructive way for them to repair the harms done. Yes, had such an approach been taken, it may have fallen on deaf ears to those responsible. But at least the wider community would have seen a public display of graceful leadership. That's the kind of thing I want to see on the front page of our paper and lived out in our local officials, modeling it well for the rest of us.
Brian R. Gumm