Mistakes Made, Lessons Learned?
A mistake was made last month at City Hall when a citizen was ejected from Mayor and Council chambers for being disruptive to a degree that resulted in police intervention.
The situation was the result of boiling tensions between the council majority and a small group of citizens insistent on questioning the elected officials’ decision making and doing so often in a disrespectful, badgering and immature fashion.
All elected officials must have thick skin as well as the confidence to stand up against opposition. While it’s true the citizen in question may have been unruly and disruptive, she clearly did not deserve to be escorted out of the meeting by a police officer. That’s setting a disturbing precedent that will require consistency by council leadership.
What complicates the particular issue is the interpretations of exactly what happened. Council President Lloyd Martin was essentially accused of lying this week by his political foes, and there at a minimum is a disagreement over what led the police officer to approach citizen Ellie Diegelmann and talk with her outside the room. When she returned to the room, she apparently did what the police officer advised her not to do — waive papers in the air and clap in a disruptive fashion — and was subsequently ejected from the meeting.
This situation was poorly handled from the start. The punishment surely did not fit the crime in this particular case, but the important message here is two-fold. One, citizens need to act in a professional fashion and treat all elected and appointed officials with a certain level of respect. That’s not too much to ask, and it does not take the most articulate among us to make their points without insulting and impugning another’s character.
Secondly, the council needs to understand it’s going to be criticized. In fact, there will be many more who bash the council than praise it. That’s just the fact of life in public office, perhaps the most thankless role in society today.
However, that doesn’t mean government meetings should be allowed to get disorderly and raucous. There are lengthy precedents the city could explore to how to deal with public comments, and that notion has been tinkered with over the last year.
No matter how the government handles public comments, those speaking need to be lucid and responsible with their statements and respectful with their actions. That goes for the citizens and the elected officials.
Although the situation was mishandled, it would be wise for all involved to take a step back and realize cooler heads is best for all.