THE WHOLE ENCHILADA

The new crop of the old field of seasoned and worn city alderpersons has a very key decision to make, and it’s having one heck of a time making it. What is to be done with the public? What is to be done in controlling just how much input the citizenry gets to relay to them, and what kind of input is going to be considered to be acceptable. Currently, the City Meeting of the Whole is held once per month.

On that specific Monday-night, the citizenry is quietly (because most people have no real clue that the meeting of the whole exists) invited to come before the council and speak to not only the council but the mayor and the city administrator, as well. Each person who accepts the open invitation gets an opportunity to stand in front of a microphone at a podium and deliver whatever speech he or she might want the city leadership to hear about. The key element of the meeting of the whole is a complete lack of dictation by the City Council about what the subject matter might be. All other city leadership meetings, from the council itself down to the commissions and committees, require that citizens attending only be allowed to speak on items that are placed on a pre-prepared and pre-approved agenda. The items on those agendas are placed there by the people who make up the agendas.

If the meeting of the whole is abandoned then the freedom of citizens to voice opinions that they believe definitely need to be heard by city leadership members will be lost.

Next Monday night the Lake Geneva City Council will vote on the issue. Will these meetings continue, or will they be legislated out of existence? One has to wonder just exactly what kind of membership character this new council is made up of. Will the council vote to rid itself of public commentary because it takes a considerable amount of time to listen and then evaluate what’s been said, week in and week out? Will this city council be the decision-making body that muzzles the public and then becomes known, group-wise and individual-wise, for doing just that? Does city leadership feel that it is not accountable to the public when it slaps the public in the face and then puts an effective muzzle on it? It is a wonder to watch one civil servant after another serve in office and then finish service and go back to private life without thinking that any attribution for that service will be applied or any price charged. Service to the public is only served if the acts comprising it are for the benefit of the public, not in opposition to what the public might want or need. And how is not willing to listen to what the public has to say, except within certain very constraining (and often self-serving) bounds, not a betrayal to that task?

Next Monday night, the 9th of July, at six p.m., the public needs to speak to the council in terms that the council just might understand. The public needs to forcefully make this small group of people understand that even a small group of people deserve a voice. That small group of people is comprised of individuals who must live among the citizenry, both while in office and afterward. On that Monday night, the council must listen. You see, the item is on the agenda. Maybe that item, about the public’s ability to speak, will be the last time the public ever gets to speak again.

Show up. Yes, it’s that important.

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