Tuesday, November 25, 2008

EDITORIAL: City Council stonewalling

For the second time in two months on Tuesday night, a member of city government made a strong statement about the public not being allowed to ask questions during the public comment section of city council meetings.

During a comment from a member of the public, City Council President Louise Williams warned, "There will be comments only. I don't want questions asked of council persons at this time or at any other time during comments, but you may make comments."

A couple of weeks ago, Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray told a NewsLanc reporter, "This is public comment, not questions and answers."

Contrast the heavyhanded city approach with the practice at weekly meetings of the Lancaster County Commissioners. At those meetings, the three commissioners and their staff make every effort to at least respond to reasonable questions from members of the public. If they do not know the answer, they direct the individual to someone who may, or make a note to answer the question by the next meeting.

City Council was elected by the public to serve the public. Its members should be eager to listen to and discuss the concerns of city residents and taxpayers. As Chair, Williams may cut off any member of the public if they stray from the topic at hand or cross the line as to what is appropriate.

But we find it unacceptable for Williams and Gray to tell the public not to ask questions of their elected officials during the designated time for public input into often far-reaching and quickly made governmental decisions.

Williams must stop acting like the key component of democratic government is but a nuisance.