Keep the public in the meetings
Mayor Mick Ireland has floated the idea to change the City Council meetings from Monday to Tuesday and the work sessions from Tuesday to Wednesday, and to hold them beginning at 2 p.m.In my, as Dwayne Romero would say, “humble opinion,” this would serve neither the public’s nor the council’s best interest.The reason the council meetings and work sessions are held when they are is both to encourage maximum public input and to ensure that regular working stiffs can run for office without giving up their day jobs.The present council has a majority of members who are not on the time clock, but I’d hate to see any change in the rules that would deter future candidates from running, which having to give up two work days per week would effectively accomplish.In addition to cutting down on attendees, afternoon meetings also would have a dramatic dampening effect on the vast number of working viewers who religiously tune in to Grassroots TV on Monday nights to watch it LIVE. If it’s taped, it’s all a done deal we’ve read about in the papers. If it’s live, there is the element of suspense and the ability to get one’s butt down to city hall if events take strange turns.While I’m at it, I think that all the work sessions should be televised live as well – the city has the budget for it and the work sessions are often even more lively than the regular meetings.The problem of council people not getting their huge information packets until Friday seems to have been solved by having directed staff to get them together seven days in advance. Personally, holding the regular meetings on Tuesday would give me an extra day to write my column (I write it on Sunday to free up Monday for Grassroots), but I can’t agree that “It’s insanity to have a Monday meeting” (Mick Ireland quote) except maybe for football fans.One thing I do agree with is that the meetings are too long, and I have two suggestions. One is to triple the council people’s salaries, presently $20,000 per year, which would still put them well below the $74,000 per year salaries of the county commissioners.At the rate the city hands out millions for the ARC, the MAA trail and such, this is a drop in the bucket, less than you’d expect to raise at a B-list Aspen nonprofit benefit.In this way it could either be a low-paying full-time job or a decent-paying part-time job but it would no longer be the thankless job from hell that it is now. And working nights WOULD still be part of the package.The second suggestion is to hold regular meetings once a week instead of every other week, so there are fewer things on the council’s overloaded plates – not in the afternoon but as presently scheduled, in the evening, when the public can watch them on TV and/or attend in person.I think we have one of the best city councils ever, and the least we can do is improve their working situation. Look at the list (it’s public information) of what the rest of the city staff earns – we should hang our heads in shame.Romero proposes softening the council’s job by delegating more responsibility to staff, but I want a council that does its homework (and there’s a huge amount of it). If our city government were staff-driven, a lot of projects that were and still are being significantly pared down would be at the hammering stage now.None of the council members ran on a pay raise platform. They didn’t propose it, aren’t asking for it, but they deserve it and we should give it to them. Hey Toni, start a petition!And if you’re a Grassroots watcher who doesn’t want the meetings changed to the afternoon, write a letter to the editor so Mick will know how many of you are out there – I think there are more than he realizes.Su Lum is a longtime local whose friend Bruce calls her city council-watching a “blood sport.” Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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