Taxpayers deserve courteous treatment at city board meetings

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Mayor Bill Godbold has said he likes to run city board meetingslike court. If that’s the case, then could the “judge” himselfplease provide some decorum for the proceedings?

The mayor has always had, shall we say, a “colorful” vocabulary.That’s no secret. Yet it is unnecessary to combine that colorfulvocabulary with a hostile reaction to those who may question hisposition on an issue.

The board meeting agenda itself perpetuates a less than welcomefeeling for citizens. We’ll point out here that most citizens whocome before the board are taxpayers — the very folks who pay thesalaries of the mayor, aldermen and other city officials.

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Here’s what we mean:

The agenda header says issues raised can be rescheduled to amore convenient time for all involved. Even if you go to thetrouble of getting on the agenda, your appearance can be “bumped.”Citizens’ appearances must be scheduled by noon Thursday before theTuesday evening meetings.

Just recently, the time allotted for citizens to speak has beenreduced from five minutes to three. And, if someone is not properlylisted on the agenda, they don’t get to speak at all!

While the time limit rule is inconsistently enforced, one thingis clear: test the mayor’s patience and it’s time to shut up. Or,he may just walk out of the board room while uttering a snidecomment.

Aldermen themselves are not spared Godbold’s ire. If — in themayor’s opinion — one of them strays too far into a specificconstituent issue, the board member is judged to be guilty of”politicking.”

Of course, any public meeting needs rules of conduct, and therepeated ramblings of some who come before the board should bebrought to a close.

The vast majority of people who appear before the city board arenot professional speakers. They are, however, citizens with issuesthat are important to them and others. Those concerns, whetherraised in person at a board meeting or indirectly through a cityofficial, should not leave them subjected to verbal assault simplybecause they may conflict with opinions of the “judge.”