Eau Claire City Council President Kerry Kincaid has let it be known that she doesn’t take kindly to citizens asking questions about the city’s latest project:
I have received complaints from citizens and Council Members regarding the growing number of frivolous questions asked by Members during our meetings. This concerns me because it degrades the dignity of Council and erodes public confidence in our leadership. Furthermore, too many Council questions irritate the citizens who have come expecting to be heard. By the time we hold a Council meeting, we should be near the end of our decision making process, not at the beginning. We have already communicated with citizens, researched our own ideas, and queried staff for data and insight. So, we arrive informed and ready to debate and make decisions. As one way of addressing this concern, Russ has agreed to publish the packet by Thursday prior to the Council meeting (close of business). This will give Council more time to digest the packet and seek clarification where needed. I also initiate the following changes, to help Council conduct a more effective meeting: Monday night public hearings
After a staff presentation, Council may each ask two questions of staff
Follow-up questions count as one of the two questions
Then the public hearing will commence
Council may also ask two questions per citizen presenter
Once the hearing is over, however, Council may ask more questions of staff
In other words, she’s made up her mind that the project should be built. She’s determined that citizens and their representatives on the City Council should be seen, not heard. Ms. Kincaid’s warnings smack of elitism. Why does she think that people asking questions “degrades the dignity of the Council”? Why does Ms. Kincaid think that citizens and their representatives asking questions “erodes public confidence” in the Council’s leadership abilities? This provides some insight into why Ms. Kincaid wants to limit the citizens’ ability to gather information:
The new protocol will have a major impact on Monday’s public hearing and Tuesday’s discussion on the decision on the $5.9 million gift to a certain developer to build the proposed upscale Confluence university student residence hall.
The development is to be built on a flood plain where the Eau Claire River joins the Chippewa River. It’s surprising that the University or the city would sanction this project in this location. It certainly explains why citizens wouldn’t think highly of the city council’s leadership abilities if the City Council rubberstamps this decision without considerable public input and questioning.
Rushing through a decision like this without getting the citizens’ input increases the likelihood of defeating the City Council the next time they’re up for re-election.