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Goshen mayor’s ‘media ban’ misguided, unfair to his city

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Being a public official can be hard work.

You have citizens pulling in every different direction, encouraging you to pass this ordinance or don’t pass that one. Do this or that. The managing of finances, clearing roads – this goes on and on.

We get it, not everyone’s cut out to be an elected official. But if you’re going to run for and win the job, you can never, ever take your pail and shovel and go home.

Well, unless you’re Goshen Mayor Bobby Thacker.

For the unaware, several weeks ago, the Era published a story about the City of Goshen passing an amendment to an existing ordinance regarding dogs that would require the leashing of cats as well when outside of an owner’s property.

The newspaper called the mayor and the councilman who sponsored the ordinance to find out the reasoning for the amendment to include cats, which was part of our article. We even published sections of the ordinance in the article and the full ordinance as a legal in our classified section.

We didn’t criticize the law, although the leashing of cats seems unusual and is pretty much unenforceable for a small city like Goshen, something Thacker himself acknowledged in our article.

When other media outlets picked up the story, Thacker gave pretty much the same quotes he gave the Era, with no hint of being upset.

When we posted the story online, Thacker and his colleagues on the city commission were criticized for the ordinance. Although we explained the intent and rationale behind the ordinance was to reduce the number of cats running free, most who read the article honed in on the aspect of leashing cats as a strange and amusing proposition.

But never once did the mayor call to say we misquoted him or the ordinance or to ask us to delete unfavorable Facebook comments. Mayors have thick skins and can withstand public opinion because they have been elected to an important public office, right?

In Thacker’s case, you’d be wrong.

No, instead, Mayor Thacker decided to take his ball and go home. Oh and while he’s at it, he’s never going to play with you again, you big meanie! At least that was the message the newspaper has received.

Thacker has systematically been evicting the Era from the city of Goshen. First, he removed the Era from the city’s online email system, which alerts us to special meetings and events. Then he canceled his subscription to the newspaper.

Then, Thacker went on another tirade at the latest city commission meeting with an Era reporter present. Instead of speaking directly with the reporter, or the editor or publisher of this paper, Thacker used his position to issue a proclamation.

The mayor of Goshen said he will no longer talk to the media, claiming he has “learned his lesson” and that the city would be “going dark” when it came to media involvement. In essence, the objective media would not be your source of information in Goshen; you’ll find out what you need to know from the mayor.

The Era reached out to Thacker to try to resolve issues he said he had at the last city commission with “the media.” About 30 seconds into a phone call, Thacker said he “doesn’t answer questions from the media” anymore and hung up. We didn’t have questions at that time, but we do now.

Thacker, like many others in local government, decided to run for and be elected to a position that requires transparency. That’s something apparently he no longer believes in, which raises the question other citizens asked at the same meeting: has the City of Goshen overstepped its bounds and lost sight of who it answers to?

Elected officials are not private citizens, entitled to be quiet and stay out of the limelight. They have a responsibility to help inform their constituents, even if they don’t want to.

Officials don’t have to speak to the media, but a “no questions” policy is a disservice to the community that elected them, lest they forget, and only stands to hurt the voters in that community. It doesn’t hurt the newspaper, as we will continue to attend meetings and report on matters important to our readers. Nothing can prevent that, and legally local government offices must adhere to the requirements of Kentucky’s Open Meetings Law.

We hope Mayor Thacker reconsiders his positions about a lack of transparency and everyone can move on with life, leashed cats and all. We believe every democracy needs a leader that is responsive to his community and would not engage in a self-serving media ban.

So take a lesson from the type of animal you hoped to leash, mayor. Don’t cry over spilled milk. Just lap it up and move on.

This editorial represents the views of the Oldham Era’s editorial staff.