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If you are at all concerned about government intimidation of its own citizens, you’ll want to keep your eye on Charlestown city government.

Charlestown, by way of the Board of Public Works, recently threatened to sue Citizens for Better Government, a local organization that placed an advertisement in a local weekly paper, The Leader.

This ad listed several points about manganese in water systems. After a few minutes on Google, I found a lot of information about manganese and, like many things humans ingest these days, opinions differ on what is considered safe. Just the fact that the effects of manganese are still being studied is enough to merit this as a valid topic to bring to people.

But Charlestown government didn’t think so and they threatened to sue. How did this government arrive at that decision? What thought process did officials use to conclude that they should use taxpayer funds to threaten a group of citizens who decided to share information about an important issue?

According to Mayor Bob Hall and Board attorney Mike Gillenwater, they were concerned about water customers’ fears after seeing this ad. They were concerned people would panic when given information about manganese in the water supply.

I’m not sure what they thought was going to happen. Maybe they thought this ad would send Charlestown’s water customers out in the streets screaming, completely mortified by the sight of a glass of water. Or maybe they thought the movie “Psycho” was nothing compared to the fears people would have now when pulling the shower curtain.

We know they certainly didn’t consider that individuals might follow up on the details. We know they didn’t consider that customers might use the ad to learn more for themselves. We know they didn’t even consider that families in possession of those new government-school-issued laptops might actually use them for real research.

What does this say about Charlestown government’s opinion of the people they serve? How much confidence do they have in the residents’ ability to think for themselves if they assume citizens can be so easily led by one advertisement simply stating information about manganese in the water supply?

Don’t you wonder how they thought this through? Was this action based on the expert advice of attorney Mike Gillenwater? Or was he just following the orders of Hall and others on the Board of Public Works?

We do know that Hall thinks the group implied that Charlestown’s water was unsafe and they wanted to panic customers. And yet we don’t see the mayor upset about the advertisements out there for water filtration systems making implied health claims and listing manganese as a substance their filters can control. To be consistent and fair, shouldn’t he threaten to sue those businesses?

We also know that Gillenwater thinks the group ran the ad to embarrass the mayor before next year’s election. If the attorney advising the city on issues believes this, then how did that affect the discussions on this matter?

The government is reportedly dropping the legal action that initiated the threat of suit and what we’re hearing now is officials inviting these citizens to speak during government meetings.

Who knows what the individuals involved will do, but I know that I wouldn’t care to go to a government meeting and speak under the constraints and imposed rules of those in charge of running such meetings, the same people who were willing to sue.

I’d rather use any and all communication methods available to me in the private realm, and stay as far away as possible from government control, manipulation and most of all, intimidation.

But that’s just me.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson isn’t afraid of showers. However, she goes absolutely psycho if she sees herself in the mirror after stepping out of one. Write to debbie@debbieharbeson.com

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