Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Citizens have a responsibility

When Councilman John Wiley and Councilwoman Cindy Rushefsky hosted their Town Hall meeting toward the end of last year, Wiley said the turn out was better than it had been in years past. Wiley, who has hosted these events annually since he was elected as a City Council member, told me at a Council meeting shortly after the Town Hall meeting that there had been a good turn out the first year he held the meeting but that it had dwindled after that first year and has been slowly building in attendance ever since. Is attendance of about 50 a success? Wiley might say yes, since it's a lot better than an attendance of 6 or 10.

"Present to answer questions were City Manager Bob Cumley, Police Chief Lynn Rowe, Traffic Engineer Earl Newman, Parks Director Jodie Adams, Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith, City Utilities Associate General Manager Scott Miller, and Public Information Director Louise Whall." ~ Community Free Press - Midweek Dec.19-Jan. 1, 2008.

Wiley may not be a perfect Councilman (I haven't met one yet) but even though there have been some years he's been disappointed by the turn out at his annual meeting he has kept having it! He kept having it because he told the people who voted for him that he'd have an annual Town Hall meeting so, whether those voters take advantage of the opportunity or not Wiley has kept his word and whether you like John Wiley or think he is a good Councilman or not he should be commended for it.

Look again at the list of people that he made available to answer questions at the last Town Hall meeting! They didn't HAVE to be there, folks. There they were, on a week night, honoring Wiley and YOU by volunteering to show up to answer people's questions....look at the line up! Wiley was right to be appreciative that they took time out of their busy lives to be there for people in Zones 2 and 4 to question.

About 50 people took advantage of it. 50 people.

I'm sorry folks, all the complaining about a "good old boy network," about how our City's staff doesn't do a good job, well, there they were. You could have asked them anything. They could have answered or they could have waffled, regardless, it would have offered some insight into how our city's government works.

City Council members have a responsibility to represent their constituents. Do their constituents have a responsibility to let them know how they would like to be represented? Are they just supposed to know how their constituents feel about issues as they come up? Maybe they're supposed to listen to Vincent David Jericho of KSGF or read JackeHammer? Are they supposed to find out what their constituents are interested in by reading the News-Leader forums? Is the Missouri Liberty Coalition going to inform them for you? Maybe if you leave a comment at busplunge or write a letter to the editor of the Community Free Press they'll know how you want them to react? How you want to be represented?

They listen to that show, they read those papers and blogs, believe me, I know, but when you speak at City Council meetings, when you take time out of your life to show you are passionate enough to attend a meeting, that is when they take you seriously, that is when they are prepared to listen. I think it's safe to say anything less than getting involved in the formal process is considered as so much sour grapes by Council and city staff.

When Councilwoman Rushefsky told me that the 68 citizens who had applied to be a part of the City Manager Search Committee was a good amount of people I was surprised. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised and I'm struggling not to be pessimistic. I'm struggling not to be frustrated over the lack of interest in the City Manager's Search Committee Town Hall meeting last night and I'm struggling that no one had any comment at the Council meeting last night about the City and C.U. unnecessarily donating $20,000 each for a Partnership for Sustainability, HELLO?

Vince summed it up well on his program this morning. The State Auditor was as strong in her opinion as she could be from her position when she said she believed C.U. was violating the state constitution by contributing to such alliances, by contributing to charitable organizations from profits that a public utility shouldn't be making in the first place. I guess it doesn't matter, or it matters but it only matters as an issue to be complained about after it is approved, not when complaining could make a difference in the actual outcome of a bill.

I can report what citizens say at City Council meetings. I can write glowing articles about how citizens made a difference in city government but first they have to make a difference or there simply isn't anything to report.

“I don’t think most people understand how much influence they have on what government does,” Rushefsky said. “It carries a major impact and actually relieves a lot of the burden of governing because, as an elected official, you want to be responsive to their needs.” ~ CFP Midweek - December 19 issue, Citizens Helped Change City in 2007


Anonymous said...

I would still think that nothing will change untill we have an new and say "more honest" City Manager. Mr. C's present/ main concern is that the glamorous staff status of the Ice Park never changes.

As long as the new City Manager is from out of town, and not another damn internal promotion, there will be some hope for improvements.

The new City manager should come off a list of the "top twenty best run Cities" wherever that list is located.

Monday night, as many times before, the present City Staff is placing items on the Council plate 576 million dollars at a time and expecting the Council to sadly eat what is served.

tom said...

KUDOS !!!!!!!

Until more people get off their lazy @$$#$ and take a stand NO matter who is serving on council won't make a difference. It is quite pitiful that a city that has a population of 152K can only garner an average of 20 people at cc meetings.
I guess everything is fine as long as I have my big screen and money in my pocket.

Anonymous said...

I think you will find nearly all of the City staff is local and have been promoted two or three times without any real competition. Sort of like walking to first, walking to second, walking to third, and then thinking you have hit a triple.

Anyone from "out of town" is taking a position from their friends, relatives, the relatives of their friends, or simply the next person in the room.

This period is ending.

Jason said...

Great column, Jackie. There's no shortage of people who complain about things but only a handful that make the extra effort to try and do something about it.

Unfortunately, most of those people seem to have an axe to grind for one thing or another and therefore get dismissed by many people. :(

Look at the turnout for elections in this community. We can't even get a majority of those registered to vote to the polls.

Busplunge said...

Does it make a difference? The staff is going to do do what they gotta do, regardless of the citizens. Just look at those who were concerned about the bread trucks coming and going all night. The company got their variance. You can't fight city hall? Look at the skatepark fiasco. I went to dang near every school board meeting for almost ten years. In my experience, boards (councils, whatever you call them) listen to staff (I know, no article) because, as Ralph says, they are the experts.
Ah, I rambled enough, already I am called an 'akinner', the old Ozark hillbilly, I seen a lot of changes in my 50 years of living here and I been agin dang near everyone of them. Meh.

Busplunge said...

This guy said what I wanted to say, only he said it better: from the SN-L comments:You would have to listen... problem is that many public entities have tunnel vision and regard public input as irrelevant and/or uneducated. Much of the business that goes on behind closed doors is never open to the general public. Only when threatened by legal action will some of them pay attention.

It's been my experience that town hall meetings are just an attempt to save face.

Posted by: Buzz Lightyear on Tue Jan 29, 2008 9:31 am

Chestnut expressway said...

The recent changes in the EXPO Center hotel by JQH is somewhat amazing. Who the heck writes these legal contracts that can be simply changed to whatever??

Seems like each City Council member should be given about five "do-overs" per year.

When they see something corrupt or stupid they can simply declare a "do over", send it back, and have the whole process start again.

Busplunge said...

go back and re-read Life of Jason's account of the October City Council meeting.

Then read the story about the school board wanting to limit public comments in today's paper