Saturday, October 31, 2015

Part III - A Step To Insure Open Government

Scroll down if you'd like for Parts I & II

At this past Monday's meeting (10/26/15) the Shawnee City Council approved a slight modification to Policy Statement -7 which provides for additional input by members of the community at these meetings. Shawnee Dispatch article is here

The change was to allow for comment during that portion of the meeting known as "Miscellaneous Council Items". There have been occasions when council members have used that portion of the meeting to add additional comments to an item that was on the agenda earlier in the evening and even to comment about members of the community. These comments were made with presupposed impunity as it has not been routine for citizens to add their own comments to those made by council members. It was almost like the council members were being given a free pass to say whatever they wanted to.
Anyway, yours truly finally requested the council to consider the change at a previous council meeting and the action then started at a committee meeting on 10/6/15. That Dispatch article is here

At this past meeting the council was reminded of Section 3 of the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution, which, among free speech allows for citizens to "instruct their representatives". Also, a copy of the city's organization chart was displayed and it clearly shows that at the top are the citizens of Shawnee.

Anyway, five of the council members voted to approve the change and it will now be part of PS-7. The five members of the council who voted to insure citizen rights were Dan Pflumm of Ward I, Eric Jenkins and Mike Kemmling both from Ward II, Stephanie Meyer Ward III and current council president and Brandon Kenig of Ward IV. All five of them voiced various positive reasons both at the council meeting and the previous committee meeting for input by the public.

Two council members voted against the action, Jim Neighbor of Ward I and Mickey Sandifer of Ward IV. One of Neighbor's reasons for voting against it was a provision in PS-7 that says that council members are not to engage in debate with members of the public. Where has he been the past couple of years? Whenever a member of the public comes to the podium, and if council members ask questions, and opinions are rendered isn't that a debate? What a lame excuse. He also said that members of the public could comment at a later meeting in business from the floor. He had to be reminded that by doing that it did not get the comments in in a contemporaneous manner and on the record (minutes) as such.

Sandifer used two of his favorite comments to justify being against public input. First, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and then he questioned the cost of staff to prepare the change. Adding a half sentence to the policy statement? Well, it was broke, because there was no assurance that the public could comment at that time and based on his previous votes for costly items to complain about the cost for adding a half sentence to a document is a form of hypocrisy. I really question both his thought processes and his intelligence.
Jeff Vaught of Ward III was absent from the meeting and did not vote. But, at the previous committee meeting he had joined Neighbor and Sandifer in voting against bringing the matter to the council meeting. He was quoted in the earlier Dispatch article about that committee meeting as saying "I think we’re encouraging it to turn it into a conversation, which isn’t good because then we turn it into a conversation about something that’s not on the agenda," Vaught said. "I just don't want to make a comment and have somebody get up and turn it into a debate against me at the end of a meeting."

Excuse me! Vaught thinks his comments are exempt from rebuttal/challenge or questioning.  Another example of his arrogance, in his own words.

At the meeting this week yours truly mentioned that no member of the council is above the citizens of Shawnee. But I guess Vaught thinks he is on a higher plain.