In need of a new attitude

To the Editor,

Years ago, when Pennsylvania Avenue was two lanes, I was driving my new Ford Van on it in Weirton Heights, when an ambulance came upon me. It was night. I slowed down and pulled over onto the berm. Bam! My right front tire ran into an abandoned, crumbling catch basin overgrown with weeds. A good friend pulled me out. I called the city to report the hazard. I was told by the city manager it was a state road, call the highway department. I did. I explained what had happened and the location. I was told it was not the state’s right-of-way, but the city’s, call the city. When I told the man I had already called the city, he didn’t care — it wasn’t his responsibility. His attitude was essentially, I could go pound salt. So I called the city manager again and conveyed what the state official told me. It was a Mexican stand-off. If somebody did not “man up” another unsuspecting motorist would fare the same, if not worse, the next time. Luckily, the city manager at the time was Chuck Svokas. He understood the dilemma and agreed to see that it was taken care of even though it wasn’t his responsibility.

Our experiences shape our perceptions. Chuck Svokas is a stand up guy. I learned that the first time I met him. The state man, on the other hand, wasn’t because he was only going to do his job, regardless. As locals, our instincts tell us our local officials should have more empathy for our concerns, than the larger state.

Today, I don’t get that impression. From listening to ordinary citizens over the years dealing with some city officials, I get the impression a culture of a ruling bureaucracy has developed with an authoritarian mind set. Individuals’ problems and concerns and injustices are not as important in the broader scheme of things. So a councilman has no qualms, dressing down, from his lofty height, a citizen seeking justice, or a new city manager in taking umbrage with a letter-to-the-editor writer with, “don’t pull that whining dribble with me.”

I know I am hard hitting and don’t mince words. But blatant disrespect for another, especially when in public service to them, is beyond the pale. It is bad enough too many people believe they were not served the way they should have been when dealing with the city. The city manager’s guest column last Sunday served to reinforce that perception.

Blaise Hogan