Open Government, Part II


Earlier I put up a post discussing the Mayor's removal of a complaining citizen. That post engendered some thought provoking comments, so I thought I would continue the discussion.

First, to some of our more, shall we say, enthusiastic posters, please, take a breath. Regardless of whether you believe Mayor Stebbins was right or wrong, this is not Nazi Germany, nor is it anything even slightly resembling Nazi Germany. I do not like the 3 minute rule any more than some of the rest of you because I think it is arbitrary, unnecessary, and potentially applied as content-based restriction on speech. But don't squander your credibility by overstating your case.

I do not agree that the recent incident signals the end of free speech as we know it. I do think it was an ugly incident and, hopefully, will provide an impetus to re-evaluate the City Commission's policy to handle people who wish to comment, even critically.

Second, to this poster who accuses me of going soft on the Mayor, I plan to post a complete response later. Suffice it to say that, at present, I have to admit that he or she might have a point. I'm still thinking about it.

Third, to Larry Kralj, I understand there is videotape. I agree that such tape might provide conclusive evidence of what it depicts. It might also lack nuance, discussion, and evidence of thoughts and motivation.

Fourth, Mary Jolley raises interesting and potentially incendiary allegations about "friends of the Mayor." If this is true, it should be easy enough to prove. Anyone? UPDATE: A reader pointed out to me that this comment left the wrong impression. I don't think Mary was making allegations; as I recall, the citizen who was ejected from the meeting made these allegations. Further, what Mary referenced was the fact that the issue of the Mayor's "friends" was "a topic of discussion at their Agenda Meeting the Wednesday before the Tuesday Comission Meeting."

Finally, to the anonymous poster who wrote this: "But the problem seems to be THEY aren't doing THEIR jobs in spite of public outrage. THEY seem to be digging in and holding ground regardless of public outcry." I agree that what you say appears as though it could be true. But don't fall victim to a Pauline Kael mindset. I don't know if you can really say there is a "public outcry" on this or any other issue. You don't really know what the public thinks outside of the small group of people you encounter on a daily basis. (Although, I would urge the Commissioners to remember the same thing if they are hearing a great deal of support for the removal of the citizen from the meeting.)

Back to work, eh?

More later, I hope.


Anonymous said...

I still have a problem with cops being needed at a city council meetings. I think that this is terribly unnecessary for many reasons. Just WHAT is the crime that they are there to prevent? A violation of the three minute rule? Wow! For you see, the message this sends is twofold. First, it's telling the residents of Great Falls that they cannot be trusted to conduct their business WITHOUT the threat of arrest! I guess we're just too unruly. And secondly, it says that the city mothers endorse the use of our OWN city PD to be used against us as a means of keeping legitimate citizen complaints in check! Wow again! Oh, and it does one more thing. It says that lawton and stebbins are UNABLE to conduct business WITHOUT intimidation tactics. Again, I address this question to everyone, even the cops. WHAT IS THE CRIME THEY ARE THERE TO PREVENT? Sheesh. The unseemly relationship between the powers that be and the enforcement powers is MUCH to incestuous to result in healthy government. I mean, just HOW far away IS the police dept?! Maybe a block? If for some reason a crime WAS being committed during a meeting, just how long WOULD it take for one of our "finest" to finish his doughnut, put on his coat, and meander to city hall?! I mean, cops being present at the meetings is laughable! Do we really WANT to have a city manager and mayor who have THAT little faith in their constituency? Are lawton and stebbins SO cowardly that they can't appear in public with a bodyguard? It's laughable. THEY'RE laughable! And it would be funny except that people are getting arrested because of their cowardice. We ALL, every one of us in this city, do our jobs without a POHlice escort. Why can't they? And no matter what anyone argues, the end result is that arresting people will ultimately cause FEWER people to speak out. And THAT is not good for democracy. We need city leaders with a LEAST enough courage to not dissuade public participation on topics of such importance as the coal plant. Look, the negative health effects of a coal plant are VERIFIABLE! What is NOT verifiable is the courage and devotion to democracy of our leaders. And that's real sad. (and Gee guy, thanks for providing a forum for this much needed discussion. Hey, we all live here. It's our city)

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

a-fire-fly said...

And in the spirit of fairness, please note, there have been police at meetings long before mayor stebbins came into office.

david said...

Larry, you're doing more harm to your cause than you are helping it. As GeeGuy noted, over-stating the case and crying wolf will lead most people to tune out such criticisms.

And it truly pains me to see you slander our police officers. References to doughnuts are just childish.

Anonymous said...

David, I don't think I overstated anything. Look, I don't know what your record of testifying before committees of one type or another is, but I have testified many, many times over the last twenty or so years in all KINDS of different forums, inluding numerous trips to the Legislature in Helena. I have been in the most contentious, boisterous, volatile meetings imaginable, with miners and enviros sitting side by side at the same tables. And I have NEVER seen police ready to pounce. THAT'S why I find a police presence at a simple city council meeting such a farce. Since you seem to know more than I the reason for their presence, what is it? I guess that unless the coal plant issue had not come up, I would have never known because I had never been to a city council meeting before. And sorry that I don't share your rosy assessment of the GFPD. You must be one of the lucky few who has never experienced the depth of their unprofessionalism. Ask around.


Anonymous said...

RE: I agree that what you say appears as though it could be true. But......

My mindset is not at issue if indeed what I say could be true...

(n) public (a body of people sharing some common interest) "the reading public"

(n) cry, outcry, call, yell, shout, vociferation (a loud utterance; often in protest or opposition) or as a (v) exclaim, cry, cry out, outcry, call out, shout (utter aloud; often with surprise, horror, or joy)

How many constitute an adequate number to qualify as public? And how loud must one be to qualify outcry?

Is there some type of public or outcry quantifier, we can/must use prior to engaging in civil-blogging-unrest?

Oh yes, and can I get that in writing or on tape?


Anonymous said...


The police at meetings long before mayor stebbins came into office... were they plain clothes or in uniform? Was anyone forcibly removed for any reason?

Anonymous said...

I see this a.m. that lawton NOW wants a 4.3 percent raise in taxes to cover, among other things, more money for the PD. Hmmm. I wonder, is THIS the money destined to pay for the HUGE proposed increase in the Animal Shelter budget, or the generous salary for mayordonna's friend, gloria lamott, who wants to run the Shelter? Or maybe he'd like more backup at city council meetings! All very strange if you ask me. Sumthin' smells, and it AIN'T the doggie doo doo. It's just too darn bad that the mayor had Susan Overfield arrested before she could finish her statement that detailed all the underhanded, under the table shenanigans goin' on on the second floor! Oh, and jonnhy also wants money to "promote" our electriciy! Is this guy nuts or what?! Or just really sick in the head? What a crew, what a crew.


a-fire-fly said...

The times I am aware of they were plainclothes.
No one was removed, there was no 3 minute rule then. There is little doubt in my mind, if the rule had been in effect, it would have been enforced, and people would have been removed.

Anonymous said...

I keep reading LK's rantings about the stupidity of having the police at a simple city council meeting.
The following story, I swear, is true.

A few years ago, I was walking in the side door of the Civic Center to attend a meeting. As I walked in the door, three young people were standing on the stair landing about to exit the building. One of the young men was wearing gray jogging pants. He had his shirt pulled up while he adjusted the string tie on his pants. Tucked inside his waistband, I kid you not, was a gun. My thoughts were "My God, is that a gun?" "No, that can't be. Here in the Civic Center?" But, indeed, that's what it looked like to me. I saw the handle. Believe me, I moved my fanny up the stairs faster than normal. The three were out the door and gone by the time I had the nerve to look out the glass door to see if they were still there. I reported the incident.

Why they were there, business or social,I have no idea. Last time I heard, it was illegal to carry a firearm into a government building or any other building, for that matter unless the individual is registered to carry such firearm. Am I right or wrong?

A sad state of affairs, indeed, when it is necessary for the police to attend a "simple" city counsel meeting, but I feel better knowing they are there.

Anonymous said...

Guns in pants...can anyone, the substantiate that story?

It is a well written story. It reads touch-feely well. It may well be a true story and the fact that it may be told to generations for generations may make us all feel safer forever.