Council is on a slippery slopePublished 2:32am Monday, April 7, 2014
The Bainbridge City Council made a historical decision Tuesday night to change their meeting schedule. They voted 3-2 to reduce meetings from six times each quarter to four times each quarter. This would be somewhat of a trial, where council members would try this new schedule temporarily for one year.
Next year they will revaluate whether or not to keep the more lax schedule.
Councilwoman Glennie Bench said if one year later there were more phone votes than they thought there would be under this new schedule, or they thought it hurt the community in someway, they would revert back to the old way of doing things.
As the watchdog for the community, most newspapers would tell you there should not be any phone votes in the first place.
Inviting the opportunity — even just several instances, for phone votes, a decrease in bi-weekly discussion, a reduction in time for the public to speak in a forum — can and will hurt the community.
Inviting the opportunity to decrease a regular practice of democracy is a slippery slope for any governmental body.
The council considered in great detail how they would not affect residents of Bainbridge and their accessibility to them — but not much emphasis was put on their obligation to be in the public eye while making decisions.
If the council were to take a quick phone vote on whether or not to approve the purchase of a new road paver, they may all agree they needed to purchase it. But put that same council in a public forum and have a discussion, let residents in the community weigh in on the decision, and the council may make an entirely different decision.
It is not the accessibility to residents that is so important, but the idea of having democratic discussions in public under the scrutiny of the public eye is something that should not be tampered with.
While the financial discussions that will be had during one meeting each month will be extremely helpful and beneficial to the city, the city should have tried to find other things to be discussed during the meetings. This way there would not be just one or two items on the agenda.
Councilwoman Glennie Bench said there should not have to be a meeting if there is no work that needs to be done.
But there is plenty of work that needs to be done in plain public view.