A fresh perspective is a breath of fresh air. Double-whammy that when the perspective is something besides the usual media or Official Spin Machine take on a given event or issue. Like this first-hand recap of Tuesday night’s Montesano City Council Meeting.
By Raymond Meyers, Guest Author:
A Montesano City Council meeting took place on Tuesday, the 24th. I was there. Not because I had anything to say. I just wanted to listen and learn. To be clear, I didn’t even say “hello,” or, “excuse me” to anyone while the meeting was in session. I just sat and listened. I didn’t go as a conservative or a liberal. I find those labels constraining.
I turned my hearing aids up to hear as much as possible but I still missed a lot. I missed details that were discussed. That loss is made somewhat worse by the fact that I’m not familiar with a lot of the issues, so I don’t have context, having only been back in town for a year or so. Context is important for us deaf guys, but that’s another rant for another day.
Consider that a preamble (pre-ramble?).
The early part of the meeting, flag ceremony, roll call, approval of bills, and approval of minutes all seemed to go rather routinely. Having been to my share of meetings, it all seemed pretty mundane. At the beginning of the Public Comments period a fellow whose name I didn’t hear talked about delaying action on a land or property issue I need to do homework about. In conversations with friends after the meeting, I learned that precipitous action could have long-term effects on the area, so I have some work to do finding out more.
Then former mayor Doug Iverson got up to speak. I heard that he would be at the meeting, and I read his letter to the editor of the Vidette regarding the free Wi-Fi plan. I have asked many questions about this plan. My attendance was in hopes that some of my questions would be answered. I didn’t bring notes, which I need to stand up and speak. I only wanted to listen. This seemed an opportunity to hear a discussion of the issue, and a chance for everyone to learn more about the details. I didn’t learn anything about the Wi-Fi system, its long-term cost, its near-term benefits, its implementation schedule.
Mayor Iverson was actually there to address what he considered a slight from the Mayor Samuel in answering his letter on social media rather than in a personal letter or email. Also, after receiving and reading her response to his letter, he felt insulted by some of her comments. His time for commenting was over before any information was discussed about the Wi-Fi issue. I hoped the whole time that the discussion might turn that direction, but there was no discussion related to Wi-Fi. I’m disappointed.
Maybe I’m weird. I think we ought to sit down as a group – you know, as many involved parties as we can gather – and talk about issues that are important. We have people in town who would probably volunteer to find out what the benefits are, while somebody else might be qualified to figure out long term costs. Maybe the city has employees qualified to do those analyses. Maybe the data already exists. Then we can sit down and look at a cost-benefit analysis and decide whether benefits outweigh costs. I’ve been painted as being “anti” Free Wi-Fi because of my questions. I’m not. I’m all in favor of anything that benefits the town and all of our businesses. I’d like to make sure that the Wi-Fi plan does that.
There was an angry outburst in the meeting. There was an angry confrontation outside City Hall after the meeting. The same individual was responsible for both. In both cases the behavior seemed to be attempted intimidation. If you don’t know how to disagree politely, you don’t belong at a public meeting. Let’s be grown-ups.
These meetings shouldn’t be about who’s on whose side, or who likes and dislikes whom. The goal should be to figure out what will work best for making the City of Montesano a better place to live and work. Toward that end, a public comment should spark some discussion beyond, “times up.” It seems to me that Mayor Iverson had more to say that could have been valuable. Hard to tell from the way the situation was handled – and it was not handled well.
We had an election. We have a city government. They’re going to do the job the way they think it should be done. That’s the way it works. If we want to affect the outcomes and decisions of our city government, we have to get involved. Complaining about the results without participating in the process is a lot like shouting at a passing train. It might make you feel better, but the train doesn’t really notice. There were a lot of empty chairs in that room. If everybody who complains about the way things are going had been there, it would have been “standing room only.” This was my first City Council meeting, so I don’t have a lot of room for casting blame.
Somebody told me a long time ago that whenever you point a finger, you’re pointing three at the real problem. So there’s that.
As me dear old Dad used to say (he attributed the quote to Gen. George S. Patton): Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.
Smart man, dear old Dad.