Though David McKane’s resignation from the Keizer City Council was short-lived, his concerns will addressed.
Among the reasons he gave in his resignation letter to the mayor was his belief that the council does not listen enough to citizens who address them at hearings.
At a press conference earlier this week McKane and Mayor Lore Christopher said that the council has unanimously agreed to do a better job of listening to concerns of citizens, even to the point of holding town hall meetings and getting into the community more.
That is a good thing and Keizer will be stronger for it plus it will build public confidence in the way the council operates.
Though it is unfortunate that it took the resignation of a McKane to improve the back and forth between citizens and the council, the reaction was swift. The councilors’ decision to put the implementation of the telecom business tax on hold is evidence that the new year will see a council that listens to citizens more and make the progress more transparent.
At the press conference Mayor Christopher said the council wants to plan Town Hall meetings, a forum for Keizerites to voice their concerns and opinions. Town hall meetings have been staple of some American towns for almost 200 years, and in some views they are as important an element as elections in our democracy.
Issues that affect the people’s daily lives will always elicit strong emotions on both sides of the topic. The ideal would be to have every city council meeting packed with interested citizens, ready to give voice to their opinions. Unless the issue is controversial, such as development in areas of Keizer Station or the telecom tax, there usually are not more than handful of people in the galley.
Public speaking makes most people nervous, more so when faced with seven lawmakers, all paying attention to the speaker.
Christopher has acknowledged that it is intimidating for a speaker to sit on the testimony table while the council sits on an raised dais. We suggest that in its renewed focus on improved communications with its constituents, the city council place the testimony table on a platform that puts the witness at eye level with the council. It would certainly be less intimidating. The more comfortable the council makes it for people to speak publicly the better.
David McKane says that he is satisfied with his colleagues’ desire to assure better listening. We are optimistic that 2011 will bring improved and engaged communication between the city council and the people. And nobody can lose in that scenario.