Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Sad Day For Democracy - Tonight's City Council Meeting

There were numerous votes tonight that I'm sure people will rail against in one form or the other. But I want to focus on what was the most egregious display of anti-democratic policy I have ever seen from local government.

I showed up to the council meeting 10 minutes early only to find numerous people, including Kevin Knuth and Mitch Harper, waiting outside. This summer the council meetings have been moved to a much smaller room on the 2nd floor due to construction being done in the normal meeting space on the 1st floor. However, the council has always accommodated the overflow crowd by allowing them into the Omni room where they could watch the meeting on TV.

This was not the case tonight. The Allen County Homeowners Association had a meeting in the Omni room so those citizens that showed up for the council meeting were locked out - literally. The doors were shut, no video or audio available, and they had security and police watching the door. This is flat out unacceptable. I was told by security that the city clerk was responsible for the decision and as such Sandy Kennedy should be held responsible.

Is this how we want local government to operate in this city - behind locked doors guarded by security forces? Is that democracy? This overflow was certainly no surprise. Two weeks ago there were 50 people that overflowed into the Omni room and there were no substantive Harrison Square or property tax debates. Tonight we had anti-smoking ban discussion, Harrison Square votes and property tax discussion. Who in their right mind would actually think that room would accommodate everyone? They knew it wouldn't - they just don't give a damn. This administration has thumbed their nose at public oversight for the last year and tonight was the last straw.

Can the clerk not call up the public library and/or the Grand Wayne Center to reserve meeting space? This was an absolute failure of leadership and government. When the people are forcibly removed from the democratic process before a controversial meeting - well something has to change. Have the voters had enough?

I had a friend that showed up tonight for her first ever council meeting only to be greeted with this Stalin-esque display. But maybe that's the point - to discourage citizen participation. It wouldn't surprise me one bit but I will be contacting our new state Public Access Counselor and asking her for a ruling on the matter. I will personally sue the city if required. Those that read this blog know that one of my biggest issues is transparent government - we did not have that tonight and every single person involved should be ashamed...


Jennifer Jeffrey, Chair LPAC said...

I couldn't agree more, Jeff.

What a sham.

Let alone the rest of the issues.. absolutely a sham.

Kevin said...

Jeff, I agree that the meeting space was less than desirable.

However, I am not sure that other space was actually available either.

There would have been a cost to using the Grand Wayne, and I am not sure the Library allows space to be used after 9PM.

In either case, public access TV would have had an issue- and that is part of being an "open meeting".

I had stopped by, mainly to see if the smoking ban opponents would come close to their 2000-3000 goal.(they didn't).

I gave up my seat inside to a city worker who had asked the security guard (who works for the county I believe) if she could just stand in the doorway. He said no- it is against the Fire Marshall's rules.

Rachel said...

I am truly disappointed to hear reports of of citizens being denied access to their government. This was horrible planning on the city's part, and I'm not really interested in hearing their excuses. All governmental hearings should be open and available for the public to observe and participate in when appropriate.

Jeff, I'm glad to hear you will be contacting the public access counselor about this.

Jeff Pruitt said...


The lazy/cheap solution would've been to move one or two of the monitors from the Omni room into the atrium area.

Good grief, if the government can't solve a simple problem like this then how in the world can they be counted on to solve complex problems like property taxes?

jon said...

In February during the FWCS 1028 hearing the board meeting was attended by hundreds of people. We moved the meeting to a larger venue (the Anthis carrier center stage..(Central High for you old folks). The city counsel meeting could have easily been moved to any FWCS high school at a very nominal charge... besides... it's City Government... is anyone really concerned about spending money?

Anonymous said...

If there was no reasonable way at all to move the meeting to a bigger room then it should have been cancelled.

But to think that the little room they were in was a good alternative is just ridiculous.