Letter: A time and a place for public comment
The recent criticism by Torre concerning the decision to limit public comment at City Council work sessions not only is misplaced but is badly tainted by the odor of sour grapes. He fails to come to grips with two irreconcilable axioms: One, there is no limit to opinion on issues in this town, and two, time is finite, i.e., there are only so many hours in the day. Given the opportunity for the public to vent, City Council meetings during the past six years turned into marathon, mind-numbing sessions. Numerous examples exist: the nano-management over the size, shape and color of tiles in the lobby of a historic building and, my favorite, an endless parade of the orchestrated “me toos” lasting nearly two hours in support of a small grant for a bike race while a team of staff, experts and consultants was kept waiting and ultimately given five minutes to explain a multimillion-dollar decision on tiered electrical rates. Time mismanagement was the hallmark of the recent past.
Torre thinks that is all fine — conduct business using the Charles Dickens Bleak Street model, a Byzantine maze of years of hearings and bobbing heads without finality. One must wonder what, if anything, he learned about governance during those sessions of council he attended (or was he off in an alternative universe to blunt the pain?).
In contrast, Mayor Steve Skadron properly recognized the different purposes of work sessions and public hearings. That is not to say that experts and interested parties will not be called on when their testimony will assist in the idea process that is a hallmark of a work session. But a public hearing is plainly different; it is an important part of the decision process once the issue has been crystalized. Surely the mayor has not signaled limiting public input at that stage.
Most importantly, Torre’s myopic reasoning fails to recognize that in addition to time management, the mayor is setting a standard for efficiency and a rational decision-making process for all to follow. This is a firm step of leadership and a welcome departure from the chaotic past.
Neil B. Siegel
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