• hectorskeltor

    This great to think about but it totally misses the point.

    The real work of the public does not actually happen at council meetings (sorry to disappoint).

    Actual problem solving, creative thinking and solution making happens in committees, at town halls, at public events, in libraries, parent groups, public hearings, community discussions and…coffee shops. They may or may not include actual elected officials, but the city council meeting are really just to make the decisions “final”. They are the last public hoorah for gadflies and angry citizens to speak out or complain, for not being a part of the behind the scenes activism, or back-door-deals (both take place outside of council chambers).

    Council meetings are the public events where decisions become “official action”; they’re not the place to actually work out the messy details of governance and problem solving.

    • 8Pi

      Unpaid council members often have never seen the issues they are to discuss until the day of the meeting. And yet, they will take official action. Starbucks, under any circumstances, is not the answer, but the power abused by the fact of sitting on a raised dais needs to see an end. Residents do not go to meetings because they must stand alone behind a podium, looking up at the councilors, and, with not only the eyes of the people in the room on them, but television cameras.

      It is a setting I now compare to the Star Trek episode, ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’. The council sits there, quietly amused or otherwise, watching residents squirm at the podium. It is humiliating. The people on the dais very much forget that they are not ‘gods and goddesses’. Residents are forced to stand and beg, and hope they don’t get tripped up on their own words as the tension of being in that position, and broadcast, is extreme. It is a tradition designed to elevate the unworthy to a status they do not deserve.

  • glennisw

    And then take the council or board members off the dais and put them in a
    corner of the chambers—the way you might position a piano player in a
    hotel lobby. They’d be miked just loud enough that anyone in the room
    could hear them, but not so loud as to overwhelm any conversations.

    Seriously, you’re proposing that ad hoc, out-of-order conversation in the room should take precedence over conducting business and allowing the public to hear and understand what’s taking place?

    Council meetings aren’t supposed to be gab-fests, they’re supposed to be conducted by a procedure that allows for public comment, debate, and conclusion.regarding the issue at hand. What you’re proposing may be comfortable and neighborly, but it would seriously hamper citizens’ rights to hear, follow and comprehend the actions their elected officials are taking.

    I appreciate Mr. Kimbrough’s comment, as it shows a clear understanding of how a council meeting should be conducted.

    Frankly, the author’s suggestion makes me doubt whether he has grasped the concept of how the process works at all.

  • Nudum

    How quaint that you thing state open meeting laws are “stuffy Yankee mores.” Might I suggest that city council meetings and the such are “meetings in public” and not “meetings of the public.”

    • RussellBetts

      Good reply. You have it right. I’d add that council meetings are not for the entertainment of the public. Think of it as watching your friend at his desk at his work for three or four hours. Not real exciting.

  • rdm24

    I think the problem is that these meetings are more about performance than governance.

  • In our city – Desert Hot Springs, California – the city council closed session can only discuss issues of litigation and personnel. The big decisions are made in open session. Citizen turnout has been high at the beginnings of council meetings but tapering off to sometimes one or two at the end. However this is changing thanks to the November election. Meetings that were once 5 hours long are now less than 2 hours. This means that now more than a dozen people remain in attendance at the very end. This proves it is the personalities of the elected officials, not the process. The former 3 person council majority shifted in the last election with a different majority now in charge. Although some sniping and personal rivalries still exist, it is only two people that are disruptive and without the power they previously enjoyed the process and the performance is greatly improved plus less time is wasted.

  • hcat

    Maybe. Anyhow, the Founding Fathers would be shocked by a society that didn’t know who it’s city council people were, and who dismissed any election where POTUS wasn’t on the ballot as an “off year election”. So much for “the more local, the closer to the people” in our media society, I do fear, it’s just the opposite.

  • 8Pi

    But the raised dais needs to be abolished.