Council Should Welcome Debate, Not Stifle It

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By all appearances, Derek Pratt is an honorable man -- a true gentleman from an era when the word meant something.

The Star Valley resident heard about the town's end run to pipe water from that community down Highway 260 to the town's coffers and was incredulous. If you lived in Star Valley, you'd probably be incredulous too.

Water is a precious commodity in the Rim country, where we like to say we look after one another. What the town is allowing seemed to Derek Pratt, for lack of a better term, like highway robbery.

The difference between Derek Pratt and most of the rest of us is that he decided to try and get some answers -- from the town manager, the mayor, and a councilor or two. And he wrote his feelings on the subject, came to the council meeting last Thursday, and filled out a public comment request form.

Mayor Barbara Brewer called him to the podium and he began his remarks thus:

"Good evening ... I don't scream, I don't berate, and I am not here to criticize anyone. In fact, I'm very glad and happy to speak to you. I know you're public servants and I'm very happy that you're here. I'm here to talk about the proposition to accept water from developers' wells in Star Valley, (and to) pipe the water up Highway 260 to be accepted by the city and to be used for development in the city."

Pratt's comments probably would have taken about eight minutes to deliver, but he was cut off by the mayor after three minutes -- a standard adhered to by most cities and towns, she said later.

You can read the gist of Pratt's remarks, including the part he wasn't allowed to voice, on page 12A of this newspaper. We believe he should have been allowed to finish them.

The three-minute rule is good when speaker after speaker wants to address a single topic. It's good when there are so many speakers on the agenda that the meeting could go on forever.

But Derek Pratt was the only person who wanted to address the council Thursday evening. Derek Pratt was behaving in a most decorous manner. Derek Pratt brought concerns to the podium that were worthy of consideration.

Besides, the council sees no problem letting local pastors mumble interminably long prayers at the beginning of each meeting. The council sees no problem letting proclamations, many of which are little more than self-serving hucksterism, drone on forever. The council sees no problem letting its members hawk cookbooks and other fund-raising items or promote high school sports events ad nauseam.

Even worse, the three-minute rule seems to be randomly and sometimes even selectively enforced.

When asked later why Pratt wasn't allowed to finish, the mayor mentioned a couple of previous encounters in which he was less than the gentleman he appeared to be that evening. Even granting that, Derek Pratt should have been allowed to finish his statement -- and at least one council member has expressed the same sentiment.

The mayor says the town intends "to do the right thing" in Star Valley. Doing the wrong thing to Derek Pratt casts doubt on that statement. Why won't the council allow this topic to see the light of day?

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