As a follow-up to yesterday's blog about Comedy Central's interest in Scranton City Council meetings (Times story link here), I was going through the reader comments attached to the story. Not too surprisingly, they seemed to be split along two lines:
1. This is an embarrassment for Scranton.
2. This is actually pretty funny.
Now I've long written about how the meetings really are embarrassing. In fact, I recall writing a blog about my experience watching a televised city council meeting for Dubuque, Iowa and actually founding it BORING! I mean it was all procedural, no one said anything funny, no one had to be escorted away from the podium by a uniformed police officer, etc. I had been Scranton-conditioned to believe that these kinds of meeting should be a display for the absolute worst of citizen "activism" (if that's what you generously want to call having mentally ill individuals ramble on for 5 minutes just so that they can be on television). So I guess you could say that I fall firmly into both camps: this is pretty embarrassing for Scranton, but on the same token there are some pretty funny moments (noting that some fall into the "sad-but-funny" category) to be had.
What to do?
The answer here is pretty simple: simply stop televising the citizen comment portion of the meeting. Yes, citizens absolutely do have a right to address city council with questions, comments, grievances, etc. They don't, however, have a right to do it on television. That's what you call an "extra". Now to respond to feedback that removing television coverage from citizen's participation would hinder the public's "right to know". I'd also suggest that council minutes be posted within 48 hours and be prominently displayed on Scranton's webpage. Anyone who takes the time to watch this lunacy could take the time to launch a pdf file from the city's homepage.
Making Scranton City Council meetings more business-like is not, to quote a certain frequent council speaker, 'ridickoolus'.