Recent letters to the editor about the process of local government leave me a bit confused. Does it move too slow, or does it not allow enough time for interested parties to participate? Are volunteers just in it for the self-esteem and accomplishing nothing, or are we leaving council with only yes/no votes?
I don’t volunteer my time on the Planning Commission for self-esteem. I spend time reading proposals, researching topics, asking questions, listening to testimony in public hearings and thinking about how to balance the needs and desires of everybody and what’s best for the city in any situation. We then make a recommendation to council, which is not a binary choice. Council can and has made significant changes to our work in the past, which is their prerogative as the elected body.
Some may feel the process is too sclerotic, and I agree it can feel that way. But the work that a government does seldom has easy answers; most often, there are stakeholders in conflict, and sometimes, even goals in conflict. If you want to give everybody an opportunity to make their case, and consider how to balance everything so as to mitigate the pain for the stakeholders who lose something and make sure the public gains benefits from the outcome, it takes time and a lot of minds looking at the issue from all sides. I don’t think the process is there just to slow down and obstruct, but to provide for the consideration of all perspectives. Given that council is spending taxpayer money, it seems prudent to take a thoughtful, considered approach, even if the process isn’t the most efficient.
I encourage people to attend a council meeting or a board or commission meeting. Your input is always valued.