We Need More Openness, Candor In Government

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by Kenneth Murphy

town councilmember

I am completely disgusted with the action taken by Barbara Brewer, Dick Wolfe, Ray Schum and Jim Spencer at the Nov. 15 council meeting. The action was to move the public comments from the beginning of the meeting to the end. The argument used was that this is a "town business meeting" and we should not have our time tied up at the beginning by a bunch of comments from citizens. These people will still be able to make their comments at the end of the meeting when nobody is there.

The agenda order has been the same at least the past seven years I have been on the council. And it has been your right to bring up any issue that you feel the council should address, but is not currently on the agenda for action. Some of the comments are pointed attacks of past council actions, or council inaction and some have been to thank the Town for doing something good. I don't always agree with some of the things said, but I would defend to the death your right to speak your mind. The public's right to question government is fundamental to our system. Maybe my belief in free speech is a little different from my fellow councilmembers. It appears that their idea of free speech, is to, "say anything, as long as you agree with me."

They claim this change was initiated because the above mentioned group of councilmembers found out that other cities have put their public comments at the end of their meetings. So now they don't have to listen to all the citizens at the beginning of their meetings. What a great way to shut you up, so these thin-skinned council members don't have to listen to you.

The action of changing the agenda is minor. The underlying motivation, however speaks volumes of the controlling, heavy handed, "my way or the highway" mentality of these councilmembers. Let me say it as clear as I can these members do not want to hear your questions or comments. They and anyone they support should be challenged as to their true belief in freedom and your right to address this council in any form you choose.

There needs to be more openness and candor in government not less. It should be encouraged not stifled. I want my employees to question my actions at work and I expect citizens to question my actions as their elected official. Better decisions are made when we are challenged to defend a position or idea.

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