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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Follow-Up Comment, Council Speaker Blog

NEPArtisan was kind enough to link to my post this morning, and his posting generated a few engaging comments. Since I did take a few minutes to add a comment of my own to his posting, I thought I'd paste that comment here, as it makes an additional point or two that I think is relevant to the discussion.



Thanks for the mention.

In response to some of the comments, I want to note that I DO think that criticizing public officials is a matter of city business, provided of course that the officials work for or impact the city. Rambling on about Roe v. Wade, A-Roid’s steroid problems, “the Holy Father” or my friendship with “Attorney Kowalski” are not. For me though, that’s not the central issue; rather what I am adamantly opposed to is the gang-rule mentality that exits in council chambers; it’s this group intimidation, as evidenced by cat-calls, hissing, booing, following speakers out into the hallway that I believe actually hinders the expression of speech by the public. EVERYONE should have the right to address council without fear of intimidation. The speech of a member of the Taxpayer’s Association is no more deserving of respect than the speech of a supporter of the mayor.

As for the issue of cameras, let’s be honest: some people speak before council simply because they want to be on TV every Tuesday night. I know that…you know that…”Canoe” knows that…Janet Evans knows that…Ozzie Quinn knows that…we all know it, so let’s stop collectively beating around the bush. Besides, when last I checked, while there is a right to free speech THERE IS NO RIGHT to be on television. It’s time to end the local celebrity status of some regular speakers because the environment they create does far more harm than good.

Lastly, I occasionally teach a class at work on public speaking & presentation skills, and over the years I’ve actually had people leave the class in tears simply because it’s so stressful (well that or looking at me was stressful…). I know that it’s very difficult for some to speak in front of a group, it’s harder to do that and be audio recorded at the same time and it’s even more difficult if you are going to be on video. Yet someone with a public speaking fear/discomfort has just as much of a right to address council as Ozzie Quinn does. Since THERE IS NO RIGHT TO BE ON TV (yet there is clear value in recording/broadcasting the meetings) and since some find it intimidating, why not make addressing council easier by eliminating having a camera trained on the podium? Not only is that logical, but it has another benefit: namely that we can see how council members react to speakers comments.

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