This week, I got an email from a loyal reader of LFR who is upset that the city council doesn’t allocate more time to listening to citizens. Imagine my surprise to hear that the City Council allocates a maximum of 10 minutes each meeting to a segment known as Open Forum. According to the City Council website, Open Forum is a time when “St. Cloud residents may address the council with questions/concerns/comments (regarding an item NOT on the agenda).” According to the City Council’s own website, “Speakers will be limited to the first five St. Cloud residents who sign up.” Further, individuals will be limited to speaking twice a year. Additionally, each individual is limited to speaking a maximum of 2 minutes.
How is that giving people the time to properly address important issues? How can a city council member get enough information to formulate an informed opinion on a topic?
It isn’t surprising that this city council is considering raising the minimum age to purchase cigarettes in St. Cloud to 21. This isn’t a priority with anything but a handful of people. Nonetheless, a significant portion of time will be devoted to that subject during the first full meeting in November. How did that item get scheduled for that night’s agenda? It definitely wasn’t because of a significant outpouring of concern from citizens. Most likely, it’s on the schedule because some special interest hacks told a handful of city council members it was important.
To be fair, there are a couple of city council members that are attentive listeners. Jeff Johnson and George Hontos will listen. There might be others but I can’t confirm that. When Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local”, he certainly wasn’t talking about this city council.
Seriously, this city council listens more to the special interests than to the citizenry. At this point, citizens only have a chance to react. They don’t really have a chance to influence the council’s agenda in any meaningful way.
That can’t continue!
Whether they’ll admit it or not, these people work for us, not the special interests that typically take up the majority of the city council’s time.