Monday, January 30, 2006

Metro Council May Restrict Public Feedback

First, the Metro Council entertained the idea of ensconcing themselves in Plexiglas in order to restrict public contact, now they are considering member-at-large Carolyn Baldwin Tucker's proposal for cutting back the time that citizens have to speak in public meetings from three minutes to two. Let's put aside the arguments that cutting people's speaking time will neither guarantee that they stay on the issue nor actually cut the cumulative time of all speakers on a single subject, since community groups may adapt to the change by doubling or tripling the number of speakers they enlist for public hearings.

The democratic process is neither neat nor stream-lined, but the current limits are entirely reasonable. As long as the Vice Mayor keeps speakers in order, there's no need to limit them further. Besides, there will be a lot less public baffoonery for me to lampoon if speaking time is reduced. But if Council members really want to help citizens use their speaking time more effectively, they should be taking the time to communicate and meet with the community leaders of these groups beforehand. That will give members the opportunity to encourage them to minimize the baffoonery and rabbit-chasing that causes recent meetings to drag on until the wee hours of the morning. Council members should be meeting regularly with neighborhood associations in order to provide them with ideas for the most effective presentation of their support and opposition to Council business.

When I read that Council members want to shave public speaking time at Council meetings my views of them become only more jaded. I have to wonder whether they give a sufficient balance of their own time to read letters and e-mails that they receive from constituents.

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