This was just a small exchange at the last city council meeting prior to the summer break, and the DMN’s Rudy Bush reporting wound up buried on Page 6B of Thursday’s metro section. But the brief exchange Bush noted is a likely precursor to what we’ll see in August and September as the council hashes out the looming city budget deficit.
An electronics technician employed by the city, Chris Head, appeared before the council to complain about plans to lay off 785 of the city’s 6,000 employees. Head bagged on city management, saying they were sucking up the "lion’s share" of money for raises while cutting loose the workers. Another city employee, Mary Hasan, was reported in the DMN story asking why council members weren’t "fighting to save jobs, and called out Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway specifically, asking why he could speak up for others but not city employees."
"This seems to be the most agreeable council that I’ve ever seen in my life," Hasan told council members, and I don’t think she meant this as a compliment.
More about what Hassan meant and the council’s reaction to her comments after the jump…
The DMN story described Caraway as "angry" about Hasan’s comments, saying the council has to look out for all citizens, not just city employees. The story also said Caraway "chastised those who spoke out for creating a bad atmosphere at City Hall and told them not to come before the council with such criticism."
Councilman Angela Hunt, according to the DMN story, disagreed with Caraway’s comments: "We’re not here always to get along. We’re here to have thoughtful civil debates about issues."
This week’s earlier Back Talk discussion about the council voting with Mayor Tom Leppert 93 percent of the time during the past two years was a testament to Leppert’s political skill and persuasive abilities. But it’s almost impossible to agree with anyone 93 percent of the time — that’s not agreement, that’s servitude.
And while there’s a time and a place for the blindly following leaders, that strategy tends to work best when everything is rolling along nicely. It doesn’t tend to work at all when people are called upon to make sacrifices, because it’s difficult for any one person to fairly determine who or what should be sacrificed — sometimes listening to a whole bunch of discordant thoughts is the only way to sort through the issues and make a final determination. Everyone may not wind up happy, but an open, inclusive process makes people feel as if they’re being heard. Telling them not to bother the council with their thoughts does exactly the opposite.
If this little DMN story foreshadows this fall’s budget discussion, we could be in for a more interesting next couple of years in local politics.