Editorial: From flags to philosophies, Barrington council is in new space

Posted 3/4/21

Now that the Town of Barrington has made public symbolism one of its core principles, residents can expect a fair amount of their government’s time to be devoted to the cause — causes, …

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Editorial: From flags to philosophies, Barrington council is in new space

Posted

Now that the Town of Barrington has made public symbolism one of its core principles, residents can expect a fair amount of their government’s time to be devoted to the cause — causes, actually.

By passing a law that allows almost any flag to fly beside Barrington Town Hall with council approval, by making public statements about the town’s moral code, by erecting banners to proclaim unity, by organizing rallies and delivering speeches, this group of public officials are no longer on the slippery slope. They’re right where they want to be, steering the moral compass for thousands of people.

Society once relied upon churches, families, educators, charities and volunteer organizations to steer that compass. Now the government of Barrington has joined them.

Many residents are thrilled with the new direction. They cheerlead the efforts and applaud the outcomes, as is their right.

Yet even town councilors themselves must wonder how much of their time will be devoted to passion plays and morality debates. On Monday night the focus was Autism Awareness. Should its flag fly next to Town Hall? Should blue light illuminate the historic building? In the end, after lengthy dialogue, they found unity and unanimous support for flying the flag.

That’s one meeting and one decision. More will come. Residents want their flags to fly — some legitimately, some just trying to push the councilors’ buttons. Groups, too, want their messages endorsed by the government, and they will come seeking Barrington Town Council approval — some legitimately, some to push councilors’ buttons.

And the stage will grower larger by the cause, larger by the meeting. It’s no coincidence that Barrington public meetings are now attracting visitors from neighboring towns. When the town was focused exclusively on town business, debating mundane issues like property taxes, street paving and how many firefighters should protect the town, it never attracted out-of-town guests. Now that it is passing judgment on society’s complex issues and deciding which symbols fly atop the hill, it is getting widespread attention.

The council president silenced one out-of-towner Monday night, but more will come. This is part of the town’s business now.

And since it is part of the town’s business, candidates should make clear where they stand on all these issues before they are elected to office. If part of their role is to shape the town’s image, set its moral compass and determine its voice, then candidates should be more deeply vetted by voters prior to any election.

Which causes do they support? What are their ethical standards? What voice do they want for the town?

Since they will be determining the values of the town, their personal values will be as important as their professional, educational and civic qualifications. This is their new reality.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.