I have been on the city council for 5-6 years now. There have been several times that I have abstained from a vote. When should one abstain? Should I not have an opinion one way or the other? There are suitable times to abstain and even NOT voting can sometimes make a point.
Of course a commissioner should not vote if he/she feels that he/she has a conflict of interest. For example, maybe a family member is involved in a business that is up for a business license. In a small town such as Hawkinsville, there are bound to be conflicts that are unavoidable and it is best to simply abstain from voting rather than give the appearance of inappropriateness.
However, there is another time that I find myself abstaining frequently. The abstaining is meant to make a point while not derailing a legitiment process. The City Fathers, long ago, decided that beer and alcohol could be sold within the city limits. They set up certain proceedures, applications, and guidelines that must be adhered to before a license to sell these items can be obtained. The applicant must past a background check, fees must be paid, and zoning conditions must be met among other stipulations.
Due to personal moral reasonings, I personally would prefer that we do not allow the selling of alcohol within the city limits. But the current law says that one can. The current laws stipulate that if certain conditions are met then a license must be granted. Therefore, if a business jumps through all the hoops, meets the criteria, pays the fees and does all that is required, I cannot in good conscience vote AGAINST granting that license. However, a vote FOR might be construed as supporting the sale of alcohol. Therefore, I normally simply abstain during that vote. The license is normally granted by four yes votes, one abstaining.
Now, suppose I was one of only three commissioners present. In that case a non-vote would actually have the effect of being a NO vote. Should this ever occur, I would, in that case, vote FOR the license. If the business person has done all that is required, then they should get their license.
So, if you ever wonder why I abstain on such votes, it is simply my way of giving my opinion on the subject while NOT derailing the process.
I would love your comments on this post….. Do you agree or disagree? Am I being silly or principled? Should my votes on the council represent my personal beliefs or those of the people that I represent? I am called to always vote with the majority of the people that I represent or did a majority of the people put me in this post because they felt like the majority of my beliefs (if not all) match closely with theirs? Whatcha think?