Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mark Twain on irreverence

"Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its one sure defense." ~ Mark Twain

Some people today, after sitting through a contentious and some might even say "bawdy" City Council meeting last night, are going to suggest that citizens were wrong in calling out from the crowd and not following guidelines of mannerly decorum at the hallowed halls of City Council Chambers.

Considering that according to Councilman Ralph Manley the sheer presence of citizens coming to a Council meeting last night was "disrespectful" of the Council, I thought this might be a good time to share a few quotes from a master of irreverence...Mark Twain:

"...when you are in politics you are in a wasp’s nest with a short shirt-tail..."

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

"In my experience, only third-rate intelligence is sent to Legislatures to make laws, because the first-rate article will not leave important private interests go unwatched to go and serve the public."

"No one's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."

"Wherefore being all of one mind, we do highly resolve that government of the grafted by the grafter for the grafter shall not perish from the earth."

"Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it."

"The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all."

...and oops, one last quote, apply where needed:

"Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person."


The Libertarian Guy (tm) said...

Manley equates civil concern with "disrespect"???

Now my opinon of him has taken quite a turn. I generally respect him, but this puts quite the black mark on him in my book.


Jacke M. said...

You know, in fairness, I think Manley is old school and I think Manley, because he is a man of character, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt there, thinks that everyone else is a person of character.

Naturally, he wants to believe the best of his fellow Councilmembers and in a way I don't blame him for that and I can even understand that perspective because I used to operate under it as well. Now, one day *I* woke up and realized that just because I am a nice person and an honest person doesn't mean that everyone I come across is a nice and honest person.

We all want to believe the best of people. I think Manley is guilty of wanting to think the best of people and I doubt that he really intended his comments to come out the way they did.

If given an opportunity to edit himself I think he probably would say what he said differently.

We should consider that for Manley, this is personal, and who hasn't occasionally mispoken? It was an unfortunate turn of phrase and we really should consider all the many times that Manley has told, not just me but others when attending Council, thank you for coming, thank you for being here, thank you for taking time out of your life to show an interest, etc. His comments last night should be weighed with that in mind, in my little singular opinion.

Heh, maybe I'm not so immune to thinking the best of people after all. ;)

Jason said...

I didn't take Manley as meaning showing up with civil concern was disrespect. I think he had more of an issue with the people shouting out and disrupting the proceedings.

Jacke M. said...

Plenty of people did take it that way and I can see why. Like I said, I don't necessarily think Manley meant it that way but it sure came across that way to me, Jason.

Later, when I have more time I'll post the direct quote from Manley that gave me that impression.

Jacke M. said...

...besides, Jason, I think MOST of the shouting out came on the heels of Manley's comments, in response to him and later.

Anonymous said...

the real shame here -


Elected city council has NO IDEA what is going on.

When the time comes, our trusting Springfield City Council will dutifully rubberstamp approval on whatever city staff serves up.


These are the same yayhoos who are supposed to be making things right with our police and first responders....

This city needs big changes...

Jacke M. said...

Anon, this is where the people have to hold the City Council accountable. The City Council is accountable to the voters. The City Manager, Cumley, is accountable to the Council and City Clerk, Brenda Cirtin, serves at the pleasure of the Council.

Now, if the management of the City is incompetent it is the ELECTED City Council's duty to hold HIM accountable and do something about it. We, as citizens and voters, can do nothing but voice our displeasure, wherever it lies and appeal to the Council to act on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the theory, Jacke...
(For the sake of this conversation, you can call me Noel...)

however -

look at the job description for a quality city council member who would effectively serve Springfield...

- must be willing to work without compensation
(it's a volunteer gig)...

- must be willing to risk the wrath of the current power structure (includes various financial and social risks)....

- must be willing to do the dectective work necessary to find out what in the world city staff is up to.... (No one on the current council has the time to do this.)

- must be willing to work without local tv and newspaper media illuminating for the public... (in other words, unless radio's Mr. Jericho is still around covering your efforts to clean up city hall - you're alone.)

That's a heck of a job description-

We have some good people on council, (and some lemons, too), yet I submit none of them have the free time / moxy to do this almost impossible job for nothing.

I still think big changes are needed.

I enjoy your blog...


Jacke M. said...

Noel, I plan to respond to you later. I've gotta run right now. Check me later.

Glad you enjoy the blog!

Anonymous said...

I'll come back to check your comment, Jacke...
(enjoyed the Twain quotes, btw.)


Here's another aspect of the current problem...

Full time paid staffers who have held their jobs for decades are - in theory - working for uncompensated part-time bosses...


Who's really in charge, then?
- full-time professionals (city staff)
- part-time volunteers (city council)

To me, despite any technicalities, the above relationship is the source of our problems...


Anonymous said...

The Council only gets confused and in trouble when they try to go beyond Police, Fire, Water, Lights, Streets and Sewers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon

I agree and would further say that our city staff (in addition to council) is also incompetent - especially in regard to real estate development...


Anonymous said...

actually, Anon, I guess I do have a quibble with your last post...

The city is spectaculary incompetent in handling its fire and police.

Overall I agree, they experience much confusion and trouble - and due to Springfield's poor media coverage, city council and staff face no reprecussion.

Paul Seale said...

Hmm.. wasnt there, dont live in Springfield, but I must say it sounds like the council was very condecending in nature.

While I believe the members of the audience should have shown respect for the process, the Mayor and other council members could have defused the process.

Instead, they decided to escalate the confrontation.

You tell me who is showing more leadership in trying to resolve any issues.

Someone needs to stop the QQ over egos and solve the problem.

Jason said...

I really didn't see the condescending attitudes, Paul. I think a group of folks came in expecting to get that attitude and pounced upon anything they could find to react the way they wanted to react.

I know that won't be a popular opinion attached to this blog but I really think it's the truth. Some people wanted to go in there and cause a disruption and scene. They did it.

Anonymous said...

I disagree, Jason.

If the City Council had the time, moxy and inclination to find out what city staff is doing behind closed doors...

...there'd be no reason for laypeople to attend these meetings.

I think Manley's speech was off-the-chart condescending. If Manley gave a squirt about what city staff is doing to this city the people wouldn't have to 'crash' his council meetings...

Just my opnion.


Jacke M. said...

Personally, shouting and heckling isn't my style, that doesn't mean it isn't someone else's style and I'll be darned if I'll tell anyone else that their "style" is unacceptable. It takes all kinds, it always has and I hope it always will.

I LIKE the idea of people being passionate about an issue, even if that issue is perceived incompetence on the part of city government in Springfield.

I've said this before, I'll say it again: There are a lot of people that seem to want to go around shouting "we must be tolerant, we must be tolerant," but then they want to dictate the way others express themselves. They want to set up their own personal guidelines and then expect others to agree and follow their guidelines.


I certainly believe in the rule of law but I didn't see a level of disrespect or unruly behavior that rose to the occasion of any particular condemnation, not in my own humble opinion. People are who they are. Some people are hot heads, some people are quiet. That's life.

Politics is volatile. City Council and City Government can get pretty political.

There has always, throughout history, been some nastiness involved in politics. Some people like to pretend that we are living in a time when politics has taken a historically nasty turn. I don't know that that's the case. There's a reason people often say "I don't talk politics or religion," BECAUSE THOSE TOPICS CAN AND OFTEN DO RESULT IN ARGUMENT. Duh. They always have. To expect any different, in my opinion, is foolish.

Now, following are pertinent sections of the City Charter in relation to my comments about the role of Council, City Manager, etc:

Section 2.7. Appointment and removal of city manager

The council shall appoint an officer who shall have the title of city manager and who shall have the powers and perform the duties provided in this Charter. No councilmember shall receive such appointment during the term for which he or she shall have been elected or within one year after the expiration of his or her term. The appointment of the City Manager shall be for an indefinite term, and he may be suspended by a resolution which shall set forth the reasons for his suspension and proposed removal. A copy of such resolution shall be served immediately upon the city manager. The city manager shall have fifteen (15) days in which to reply thereto in writing, and, upon his request, he shall be afforded a public hearing, which shall occur not earlier than ten (10) days nor later than fifteen (15) days after such hearing is requested. After the public hearing, if one be requested, and after full consideration, the council by majority vote of its members may adopt a final resolution of removal.

Approved by vote of the people April 1, 1986.

Section 2.8. Prohibition of interference

Neither the council nor any of its members shall direct or request the appointment of any person to, or his removal from, office by the city manager or by any of his subordinates, or in any way interfere with the appointment or removal of officers and employees in the administrative service of the city. Except for the purpose of inquiry, unless specifically otherwise provided in this Charter, the council and its members shall deal with the administrative officers and services solely through the city manager, and neither the council nor any member thereof shall give orders to the subordinates of the city manager, either publicly or privately. Any councilmember violating the provisions of this Section shall forfeit his office. Whether such violation has occurred shall be determined by the members of the council, and their decision shall be final.
Approved by vote of the people April 1, 1986.

Section 2.9. City Clerk

The council shall elect an officer who shall have the title of city clerk. He shall keep the journal of its proceedings and authenticate by his signature all ordinances and resolutions and record them in full in a book kept for that purpose. He shall perform such other duties as may be required by statute, by this Charter, or by the council. The city clerk shall hold office at the pleasure of the council.