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Monday, January 14, 2013

Hickory Subcommittee on Citizen Input Meeting - January 14, 2013

Earlier Today I put this meeting out without context. The meeting began around 9:30am, this morning (January 14, 2012). This Subcommittee of City Council was formed to create language related to Citizen Input at City Council meetings.

As many of you know, this all began over issues related to the Swimming Pools and the structure built on Union Square where citizens felt that they weren't getting a fair hearing and the ambiguous nature of the Agenda and some of the proceedings that took place caused a lot of frustration.

About a year ago, Cliff Moone noticed what the cover page of the City Council Agenda stated and we waited for the moment in time to present itself to be able to utilize the process and thus empower the citizenry. That process allowed citizens to pull items from the Consent Agenda. We felt the Consent Agenda had been being utilized to circumvent public hearing processes.

Cliff and I had conversations with Rebecca Inglefield and at the City Council Meeting of May 1, 2012, she addressed the City Council and had items removed from the Consent Agenda. The City Council moved to close that process at the following City Council Meeting of May 15, 2012.

All of this point-counterpoint was a large part of the discussion related to the Referendum on Ward Specific Voting. Proponents and Opponents came to an understanding that Citizens should be heard before public policy and spending issues are voted upon. Joe Brannock, as the leader of the CEG's referendum drive, espoused 5 proposals to move us closer towards a more representative City Council and Number 1 on the Agenda is moving the time for citizens requesting to be heard to the top of the agenda at City council meetings.

Following back and forth discussions in public and behind the scenes, the Mayor moved to head off some of the discussions that were taking place by making a proposal at the October 2, 2012 City Council meeting to allow Citizen Input before votes take place, but he did not want to formally place it on the Agenda and he wanted it to be done through a motion process. The back and forth continued, because there was no structure or flow to this process. And that is what has brought us to where we are today.

The bottom line is that if the recommendations of Alders Fox and Patton go through tomorrow night at the Council meeting, then we have achieved what we wanted thanks to these ladies and Alderman Lail for initiating the process to form this subcommittee and Alderman Meisner for supporting the motion and process to move toward formalizing this structure.

The Mayor wanted to maintain the motion system that he implemented a couple months ago and this was rejected. Alder Fox moved to have all "Citizen Input" placed as item 4 on the Agenda, along with the current 3 minute structure. Both Fox and Patton want stricter administration of the 3 minute policy, but they both stated that it is not their intent to summarily cut people off. It is about respecting the rules and the process. Alder Patton made an amendment to allow "Other Comment" at the end of the meetings to allow citizens who have a "Burning Desire" to address anything that has gone on during the meeting.

When the ladies did this, the Mayor tried to say they were out of order, because the time issues and such was not a directive of the Council from the previous meeting. Alder Patton pointed that it was under the purview of the ordinance. When the Mayor saw that he wasn't going to get his way, he said that he wasn't going to participate, quit the committee and physically got up and walked over and sat on the front row and participated no further.

This was high drama and pretty darned good entertainment for the few of us who were there. I hope you will take the time to watch this video and if you can be at council tomorrow night. We need to help the Council guide this issue to its conclusion and thank them for settling this once and for all. We can put the grandstanding, demagoguery, and hyperbole behind us. That doesn't mean that we can't have opinions, but the marriage of trust, representation, direction, initiative, guidance, and structure are what it is going to take to get this community moving forward again.

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