Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Public Input Sacrificed For Convenience Of Elected Officials

Last night, the Elected Councillors serving on the Metropolitan Development committee of the City-County Council, in effect, told the public that their opinions on who the Council appoints to important boards and commissions, is none of the public's business.  The particular focal point of the public gag order was the committee's discussion of the appointment of one Richard Kraft to a vacancy on the Board of Zoning Appeals 3.  The particular fall guy for the gag order was one Clarke Kahlo, who seeks to improve our community, in part, by improving the decisions of boards like the BZA.

Fellow bloggers Gary Welsh (Advance Indiana - "GOP Council Committee Refuses To Hear Public Comment") and Paul Ogden (Ogden On Politics - "Republican Councillors Refuse To Allow Public Testimony On Controversial Appointment To Zoning Board") covered this earlier.

I think Gary and Paul did a great job.  I would just have to say, that Democrat Councillors were present in the room and did not protest the gag ruling.

I know nothing of Mr. Kraft, and this blog entry is solely about public policy.

The Councillors knew two years ago, that the appointment hearings of some individuals could embarrass the appointee and those Councillors who picked them.  Democrat and Republican alike had two years to find a way for public input into these important matters.  At best they fumbled the ball that only they get to carry.  At worst they put on their best Boss Hog attitudes and told the public to take a hike, that the public's opinion meant nothing to them.

The work of the BZAs and the Metropolitan Development Commission causes good and evil to fall upon our community.  These very important panels are commonly populated by political-party-approved folks, and do not fairly represent the broad community.  At every turn the Councillors complain about how hard it is to get folks to serve.  Yet, every year the Council fails to even experiment with having just one of the three BZAs work evening hours.  This would immediately provide a whole host of individuals who would be willing to serve, but could not contemplate getting one afternoon a month off from work.  An additional bonus falling out of an evening BZA meeting is that more neighbors could come and speak their mind about petitions that will affect them.  But, working stiffs who have no flexibility cannot be a Board member under current conditions, nor are they able to often speak at hearings on zoning and variance matters that affect their quality of life and property values.  And, make no mistake, that's exactly the way some people in high places want it.

It is paramount that the Council find a way to let the public speak on the wisdom or insanity of the Council's picks to all of the boards and commissions.  You simply cannot pretend to value public input, then tell members of the public to shut up, move along, their opinions do not matter.  That applies to the Republicans who hold the majority on the Committee and the Council, and it applies to the Democrats who hold their tongues.

Councillors in attendance at last night's meeting were:
Janice McHenry (Chair), Paul Bateman, Jeff Cardwell, Jenny Cain, Brian Mahern, Dane Mahern, Jack Sandlin, and Angel Rivera.


Blog Admin said...

It's a flat out lie that the council doesn't allow public comment on elected officials. Maggie Lewis even let me do public comment during a full council meeting (something that isn't standard, but she was able to let me go ahead anyway since I couldn't make the committee meeting). during Stuart Lowry's re-nomination process.

This is a shame. But I can't say I'm surprised.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I'm glad Lewis was that supportive of public input. It bodes well.

As for surprised or not surprised; can't say - all I know is we should all be offended.

I'd like to mention that 2011 is an election year. IF ever they will listen, it is now, before they have secured your vote.