What is the purpose of City Council meetings? You know, that time on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month — except for July and December, when the fourth Tuesday meeting is vacated — that the council and staff get together with a few folks from the public to move forward, or not, with city business. It is the only time where all the council members can talk to one another and let one another, and the public, know how they feel about issues.
I don’t know what goes on in anyone’s mind, except my own, but when I have a chance to tell people know how I feel about an issue, I tell them straight out, with no holding back. How else do people know where we stand on an issue or even what you are talking about?
Since 1995, I have been to more City Council meetings than I can count and filmed more meetings than I can remember, so I’m talking about years of meetings, and I am not picking on any council. Time and again, I’ve heard council members say they had their meeting with the city manager, and I’ve known three city managers, but that’s where any communication ends.
What did they discuss? There is no discussion, or very little, of the pros and cons of an issue. If a council member and a city manager are talking about a city issue affecting us, where are the why’s and how’s needed in a public meeting?
Over the years, I have seen a motion up for a vote and no one is sure of what the motion is. OK, have the city clerk repeat the motion so everyone knows what is being voted upon. Then bring up the motion, obtain a second and discuss. Then take a vote.
I’m sure someone will tell me this takes place, but I can tell you, based on years of experience, far too many people don’t know what took place. Are only council members and the city clerk supposed to know what happened? What about the public’s understanding. Maybe a solution would be for someone on the council to ask a simple question and have some coherent discussion. Just saying.
Based on the mayor’s recent State of the City address, I must say we agree, since he specifically spoke of his “crystal clear communication challenge” to staff and took the media to task.
Throwing down the gauntlet is fine, yet I’m not hearing “crystal clear communication” coming from council meetings, and replies to my emails from most of the council are not forthcoming. Yes, I get replies, but not from everyone. This does not equal “crystal clear communication” in my book.
The city has an obligation to share information, especially at council meetings. If getting the city’s business done is the purpose of a council meeting, which I think it is, then perhaps some “crystal clear communication” is in order. Big deal if it takes an extra 30 minutes or an hour or longer. Either you are communicating with the public or you are not. When any council member appears unprepared, crystal clear just went out the window.
When the words to a TV reporter are one thing and the response from that councilperson during a council meeting make no mention of what was given to the media, this is not “crystal clear communication.” How are the media to know what the speaker really meant? “Crystal clear communication” to me is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It doesn’t change with the audience to whom one is speaking.
The public has the chance to speak during public comment, but because there is no response from the council, there is generally no answer given to most comments, which are sometimes questions. So now you’re going to tell me it’s a rule that the council can’t respond.
Well, in keeping with the mayor’s “crystal clear communication” challenge, if the council can’t answer while a member of the public is speaking, give them an answer when public comment is over or change the rule.
Honesty is the best policy, and “crystal clear communication” is that entity for which we should all strive.
Are we “crystal clear communicating” yet?
Rose Ann Miele is a journalist and was public information officer for Boulder City for nine years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-339-9082.