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An Open Letter to the Council President

By Mike McGarry

March 14, 2013

The other night, the City Council had a public hearing, after the Mayor's speech and before it's regular meeting. These hearings are for the public to comment on matters of public policy in discussion or awaiting action. They are not meant to be "T.V. Time" for council persons because, occasionally, really important points are made by non-elected leaders or just plain folks. That is the way it should be, but, increasingly the hearings have become opportunities for members of the council to make points. Read on:

To: Shawn Wooden, President, Court of Common Council, City of Hartford

From:?Michael McGarry, Former Member of Hartford City Council (1993 - 1999)

Re: What Price Does One Put On Diminishing Democracy? Presentation to the Hartford City Council, March 11, 2013

As a highly respected member of the bar and President of Hartford's City Council, I'm sure you are aware of the importance of following accepted procedure.

Therefore, it is with some concern that, at last night's public hearing, you violated Council rules with your remarks to me after my statement to Council at that hearing.

Council rules pertaining to public hearings are: “During the public hearing, there shall be no debate by the Council, although questions may be asked by Council or persons making such presentation.”

By injecting your opinion, you broke that rule and by doing so you effectively discourage democratic discourse.

Citizens deserve their uninterrupted say at these hearings. Put downs and negative comments certainly would give one pause when expressing heartfelt ideas or concerns if they thought would be embarrassed by the hearing chair.

According to the rules, questions may be asked. Your comment was an assertion, stated as fact without a chance to be refuted.

As I'm sure you understand, the point I made was that councilpersons and citizens will lose power if your reorganization goes through, what price does one put on diminishing democracy?

So, that's it. Is adding power to the President of Council, a step toward dual-mayors? Isn't one mayor enough? By mixing legislature and executive powers (oversight and accounting), we bleed areas of responsibility. Council persons have committees that the administration must answer to. That's enough.

If the idea is to “save money,” offer council persons a part-time option. Retired teachers or corporate executives, college students, home based parents with kids off to school all could be great additions to staff. Years ago, Republican members of the council had very effective executive assistants who only worked until noon.

So, council president, please be open to other ideas. Nobody has a right in America to shut anyone up.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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