Friday, August 20, 2010

Joan Burke understands the issue, but misses the point re SafeGround addressing City Council

Joan Burke, Loaves & Fishes' advocate for enlarging Loaves & Fishes, wrote an Action Alert to those subscribed to L&F's mailing list which reads in part thus [emphases, hers]:

Dear Friend of Loaves & Fishes,

Loaves & Fishes is concerned about a proposed change regarding City Council meetings. Currently, people wishing to address the Council on items not on the agenda may address the council (for 2 minutes each) at the 6 PM start of the evening’s agenda. The Council has voted to move the open comment period back to the very end of the agenda-which is sometimes very late at night, and discourages people from bringing their issues before the elected body that is supposed to represent them. This action is directly targeted against Safe Ground’s homeless activists who have been speaking before the Council every week about the need for Safe Ground and yet another attempt to disenfranchise Safe Ground’s homeless activists, and others with little power. It will impact all organizations and citizens who also use the public comment period to raise timely issues with the Council, and awareness about their concerns.
I think Joan is absolutely right, that the reason they moved the open-comment period to the end of the session is to discourage comments. But I would say that it was done to discourage frivolous comments, specifically those from SafeGround who show up each week, usually with nothing new or interesting to say.  Indeed, most often SafeGround comes to goof on the city council.

The idea of speaking before the City Council is to say something helpful or enlightening or important.

Understand that I am not saying that SafeGround shouldn't speak to the city council, it is just that they mostly now do so in an act of wasting the council's time.  If the group has something new to impart, they should come, and have one member say something succinctly and artfully that imparts what's important.

It has been SafeGround's strategy to alienate those that disagree with them instead of trying to engage them and find solutions that meet everybody's needs.  They should change their strategy, embrace the idea -- for a period of time -- of having the session when the public speaks to the council be later at night, and try being kindly, wise, and thoughtful. 

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