Guest column: City Council’s ‘clarification’ stifles public participation
After attending today’s (March 7) City Council meeting and workshop, I have to say that I am very concerned by what transpired. At the beginning of the meeting, prior to “public communications,” [Mayor] Austin Sass read the following statement:
“This is the public’s opportunity to speak on any topic not listed on the agenda. Comments shall be limited to four minutes or less. Please note on our meeting agenda that we’ve added a sentence that says ‘at the end of public comments the City Council and/or city staff may comment on any public comment for clarification of the public record.’ In other words, if something that is said is inaccurate, the city staff or City Council may correct you on camera.”
Essentially, they will be using this opportunity to call members of the public liars. Mr. Sass and Mayor Pro-tem Wendy David both recently used council member reports as an opportunity to “call out” former council member/former county supervisor John Cefalu’s comments during “public communications” that the city’s snow removal operations were perceived as less than satisfactory by many members of the public.
This, I believe, is what’s known as “a matter of opinion.” Yet, members of our City Council have chosen to call this person a liar!
Mr. Sass made the comment during a previous City Council meeting that he will no longer sit back and allow the public to lie during public communications and on camera. Unfortunately, Mr. Sass has decided to call members of the public, his supposed constituents, liars even when they speak on subjective matters.
What may be his “truth” may not be a member of the public’s “truth.”
As elected officials, the council should: 1) have thicker skin or get out of politics; 2) listen to the public they were elected to serve; and 3) be very careful calling members of this community liars when they are coming forward to express an opinion.
Isn’t this what we elected them to do and are paying them for?
Bottom line, as many are aware, public speaking is one of the biggest phobias we humans face and knowing that our comments/opinions expressed to our local elected officials (our employees) will be met with scorn and accusations, will have a chilling effect on the public’s right to take an active part in local government.
I guess when they want our opinion, they will tell us what it is!