May 30, 2006 > Editorial: Council conduct
Editorial: Council conduct
There is something refreshing about small towns and straight talk. A recent visit to a Newark City Council meeting brought this to mind as fractious and contentious displays of egocentric pomposity were absent even when disagreement was evident. A consent item was pulled to be discussed. Although simply an advisory vote on a pending Assembly Bill and Senate Bill, the council handled conflicting opinions swiftly and with civility.
Although not unheard of in other council chambers, this calm approach to disagreement was enlightening. Even as another media source somehow created a front page headline from the vote, getting it wrong in the process, the noteworthy component was not that it was split (2 ayes, 2 nays, 1 abstention) but how the process could accommodate each member without flogging the subject into oblivion.
I realize that when subjects are complex, all aspects should be explored. However, when councilmembers come to meetings prepared with a clear understanding of salient points for discussion, arguments for and objections, it expedites the process. Each councilmember does not have to travel the same road over and over again, rather reinforce advocacy or let objections stand as stated. It appears that this abbreviated process is taking hold at Fremont meetings that have, at times, stretched to ridiculous lengths without much substance.
Although watching the Fremont City Council on cable for the last few weeks due to illness, even from a distance, movement toward brief and concise meetings is applauded and appreciated. Obviously, when 30 people would like to voice their opinion, meetings will stretch in length, but in my opinion, councilmember posturing which adds more time than necessary, can be held to a minimum without endangering the democratic process.
Our paper is improving its resources for monitoring not only city council meetings, but commissions and local agency meetings as well. As it does, reporting content will reflect our attention to the substance of these meetings while honoring the integrity of those serving in the public's interest. It is important for all citizens to try to understand and review the performance of their government, especially at the local level on a regular basis. This is particularly true during elections since politicians have come to understand that a low turnout will favor special interests, incumbents and political parties who can gather "true believers" at the polls.
It is through voter abstention that insidious and nefarious powers get their way far from public view or pressure. There are certainly enough examples of corruption, fraud and misappropriation to prove the case for continuous public scrutiny. This is the fault of a lazy constituency driven by slogans and labels. It is not only our civic responsibility, but our very way of life that is threatened when personal responsibility is shifted elsewhere. While United States citizenship is hotly contested when discussing immigration reform, how many eligible voters - legal citizens - take their voting rights seriously. From registration and voting numbers, the answer is shameful.
This paper was created in contrast to the typical way things are done in the newspaper business and, with public and advertiser support, has flourished. It was designed to be a "good citizen" and an unabashed supporter of its population and economy. We will do our part to encourage active participation in the political process. Will you?
Vote on June 6th!