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City Council needs to cultivate respect

By Rich Glennie
At a recent Glencoe City Council meeting, it seemed no one even wanted to make a motion to approve the monthly bills. The acrimony had gotten that bad among the council members.
One would have thought the council members were congressmen or the state legislators! Respect for others with differing views has become optional.
The last time things were this bad, Mayor Leon Johnson was dressed in body armor, Police Chief Wes Olson had to check his gun at the door, and the old council chambers were being guarded by a burly sheriff’s deputy.
It was like walking into an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
The most recent City Council meeting had a similar feeling as the members began snipping at each other over such vital matters like the purchase or repair of a sewer jetter or a better location for the county’s recycling bins.
Anyone paying attention to council proceedings could see this train wreck coming months earlier. It seems the idea of proper decorum at the meeting has been shunted aside for snide remarks, tongue lashings and public rebukes of city staff members. There are few saints in this scenario.
What in the past constituted decorum, like taking a vote and moving on, is now being taken personally by some council members and allowed to fester. Not a healthy way to run a community.
If one’s opinion is in the minority, accept it and move on. If one is in the majority, be magnanimous and accept that others may see things differently. If we all thought alike, it’d be a pretty dull world.
Remember, council members, you all represent all of the citizens in Glencoe, not just special interest groups with axes to grind.
So let’s get back to Roberts Rules of Order. There is a proper way to act during a public meeting. Perhaps a refresher course is needed.
That said, there also is a perception that public voices are not welcomed during the meetings. One cannot find a lasting solution unless more voices are heard on any particular topic.
Even though a portion of the council meeting is opened for public comment, often it is only available after a topic has already been discussed and voted upon. Public input after the fact is fruitless.
Make public meetings more public-friendly. Even though it may make meetings a bit longer, briefly recap the topics discussed at committee meetings in order to give context to the public’s understanding of an issue. Aim at informing the public about how decisions are reached. Explain clearly why you voted the way you did.
But openness goes both ways. There is a down side to opening up public meetings. If the public is there to merely complain and gripe without offering realistic solutions, that is equally pointless. That is the greatest fear of the City Council. The meeting could turn into a free-for-all that helps not one iota.
It’s time to return the City Council to a position of respect, especially for each other. The last thing any of us want is for the City Council to be as dysfunctional as those higher up the political food chain.
Rich Glennie was the editor of The Chronicle for 23 years. He retired Aug. 1, 2014.