Public Outcry Causes Mayor to Rethink Broadcast Policy Print
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
Written by Phil Yerington   
Tuesday, 30 January 2001 18:00
I would like to set the record straight on the recent controversy surrounding the Davenport City Council’s decision not to televise the “Public with Business” portion of our meetings. There was never any desire or attempt to “censor” the voice of the people. In the past three years we have opened doors to City Hall that were thought closed before, and public opinion is one of our strengths, one we should cherish.

But as a city we do have an image problem. This is not something new, as people have been disagreeing, arguing, and yelling at City Hall meetings for a hundred years. But now we televise our behavior to the entire community. People are watching, and that is good. As I’ve said before, government is easy when no one is watching! It is our job to inform people and invite them to join the process and get involved in their town government.

We have invited public comment at the committee level, the Committee of the Whole meetings, and the council meetings. For the first time in the history of Davenport, the public is allowed to make their feelings known before the aldermen vote on an issue. A new set of rules was added at the podium so people speaking would know that there was a code of conduct that all of us would be following. This concept was talked about for three months, along with ideas on how to provide more discussion time to the people and bring the meetings back under control.

Our desire was not to exclude public comment, but rather to invite it in a more organized and friendly manner. We planned an open town meeting on the Monday between Committee of the Whole meetings at which people could come and talk about anything regarding the City of Davenport. We decided to televise this open meeting and play it repeatedly on our cable channel. This would give us four meetings at which the public could offer suggestions, ideas, and criticism to the elected officials.

I’ve been listening to the people and their comments, and there seems to be a desire to re-examine this decision. That’s fine, but if we are going to change back to the old system, then let’s do it now and let’s do it right. Let’s agree on enforcing the code of conduct we have mandated to those who visit and participate in our meetings. I and the City Council should set the example by professional behavior on our part. This should start immediately; and let’s treat each other – the elected officials, staff, and public – with the respect and dignity that we’d all like to receive.
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