Written by Stacey Starkey
we have to come to the best conclusions possible. To that end, I would urge the City Council to forego any further discussion on an ‘ethics policy’ and establish a basic ‘manners policy’. Here are a few suggestions to help get the ball rolling.
1. Think things out before speaking. In these four and five hour meetings, please state your ideas or opinions; etc. succinctly and take care not to simply repeat what the last speaker said.
2. Always respect speakers, listen to them, and learn. This goes double for the audience members. Do not forget the members of the City Council have been elected to represent you in local affairs. Even if you don’t like them personally or they hold views opposing yours, show them respect, even if you don’t always feel it.
3. Be flexible and open minded. A lot of information goes into every discussion, and no one person can know everything. If you honestly listen to others’ points of view, you may begin to find solutions you would have never imagined beforehand.
4. Never tell a speaker they don’t know what they are talking about. Whether a City staff person, businessman or resident, everyone has their own realm of expertise. Listen to what they say and take into consideration their experience even if they haven’t extensively studied all the materials supplied to Council members. If someone is speaking out of turn, be polite and respect that they have spent their time to be a part of the political process.
5. Do not interrupt. Ever.
6. Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Do not boo a speaker’s comments or observations. Regardless of the situation, it always reflects badly on the community as a whole.
7. Do not call friends, text, read email, play games, draw, snooze or leave the room while citizens are addressing the City Council.
8. Don’t waste time blaming others who cannot defend themselves. What happened 3 or 6 or 20 years ago happened. The focus of discussions should not be what happened in the past, but how will we approach the future.
9. Always remember that the bad behavior of others is no excuse for you to act badly.
10. Remember: What happens in Council does not stay in Council. City meetings are uploaded onto the Internet so anyone anywhere with a computer has access to the proceedings. Rude behavior reflects poorly on us all.
Finally I would like to suggest a 20 minute break at all City meetings after two hours. I realize this could cause some meetings to run a little longer, but very few people can sit still and stay focused for more than a couple of hours. A few breaks might actually help things move along more quickly.
In the case of City Council meetings, the breaks should include refreshments for the audience members: cookies, tea, finger sandwiches, etc. A little snack is bound to make people more relaxed and reasonable after hours of discussion. Yes, budgets are tight, but with an annual budget of more than $100 million, a few cookies are not going to send the City into financial ruin. Thank you for considering this little list of pleasantries. Though it contains only a few simple ideas, it has the potential for benefiting the city and the community as a whole.