Monday, January 30, 2012

A Contrite Charter Revision Commission-Sort Of

The Charter Revision Commission met on Friday, January 27th. The most interesting part of the meeting was the public input and the commission responses. Commissioner Gregerson said at one point that while serving on a past CRC, they begged for input and never got it.

I submit to you that the public is more engaged in their city government goings on than ever before. We should probably thank the current mayor for that. He encourages public input with his ever present press releases and press conferences. The mayor is before the city council at many information meetings presenting his proposals and agendas. This mayor is in the forefront of city government with little public input or presentation by city directors. He is the main mouth piece of the executive branch and his demeanor and manner of speech encourages public input.  His mere presence moves the public to engagement.

That being said, the public input at this latest CRC meeting had a general theme:
  •  Encouragement to take the necessary time to research and discuss proposals before taking hasty action to put something on a ballot.
  • Transparency in government is a good thing and should always be the primary purpose of revisions to the city charter.
  • Premeditated use of Roberts Rules of Order to shut down public input is an abuse of power.
  • Balance of power and checks and balance between the executive branch and the legislative branch of government must be preserved at all cost.
  • Respect the people that come before this body.
  • Don't have time limits. If you only want to commit to one hour per meeting, do so with the understanding that you must have more meetings in order to discuss and research issues and proposals. In other words, take your time.
Commissioner Aanenson, who probably took more of the heat for his behavior at the last CRC meeting, felt the need to respond to citizen Andy Traub relating to his comments about political contributions and using Roberts Rules of Order to shut down public input. Commissioner Aanenson stated in part: "I would apologize to Mr. Jamison but when I'm asked to come on a commission and donate one hour of my time and the time is running into an hour and a half and I have previous engagements, and if it was meant that way and I know you are referring to me that I didn't mean to cut off Mr. Jamison, I just didn't have time for that meeting...."

Not much of an apology to Mr. Jamison. Let's remember he is Councilor Jamison, a duly elected member of the City Council whose standing should have demanded proper decorum from this commission than what he got. This was more like a justification for his behavior. He just didn't have time to waste on such matters. He's a busy man.

Then Commissioner Aanenson went on to attack the media for reporting on his donations to the mayor's campaign and he admonished them for not reporting the whole story. Commissioner Knudson became emotional and Commissioner Thimjon thought people jumped to conclusions. I am always of the opinion that if you have to spend time justifying your actions and making counter attacks, there is red meat in the background. Commissioner Gregerson just wanted to start over.

To Councilor Jamison's credit, he offered to remove four of his proposals from further consideration to help this group out. He never rose to their level of behavior and kept his cool both when he was dissed very publicly by this group and when he came before them again at this meeting. Always the professional, level headed and calm. Good traits for a public official.

To be fair, Commissioner Aanenson and the other commission members are citizens who volunteered for this public service and like everyone else who said it, we all thank them for their willingness to serve. But that being said, they have a duty and an obligation to LISTEN. I have to wonder what sort of orientation session these novices got before they held their first public meeting. It would appear they got nothing by their actions. Surely, the city attorney's office could have done a better job preparing them for their duties and responsibilities. Maybe we would have been spared the unprepared and not very professional behavior exhibited in the past.

This is not about them. This is not about whether they have time or not. This is not about their personal opinions or thoughts. Just because you talked about a proposal, doesn't mean you immediately look for a motion to put it on the ballot.This is about them taking public testimony and input regarding the city's charter and deciding through deliberate study and research what should be presented to the public in ballot form for amendment to the city's governing document.

This is not about them. We are talking about them, because of their inappropriate public policy behavior. We are talking about them because of their rush to get things done without proper thought and deliberation. We are talking about them because they don't know how to handle the business of a CRC and sometimes don't even understand their own motions and what they are voting on. No one caused this controversy but them. Justifications for political contributions is like trying to close the barn door after all the cows left the barn. It's too late. Insincere apologies because you are very busy and didn't have time is a personal problem and has no place in the important business of the Charter Revision Commission.  Damage done.

The time is to move forward, hoping they all learned an important lesson.  It's about doing the people's business. It's not about them. That means it's time to listen, take input, study, research, seek the advice of the city attorney, and draft language for ballot consideration either this year or in two years hence. So you got criticized, so what? That's what happens when you volunteer for a big, high profile job like this one. It's not about them and they need to get over themselves. And yes, they need to find time in order to do a good job.

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