Abraham Lincoln used to say “With public opinion on its side, nothing can fail.”  Wise words then and wise words now.

They are words that every government official should take to heart.  In its pledge to do more listening to the citizens of Keizer the city council plans to hold town hall meetings in which citizens and the city can have two-way discussions about issues.

The first town hall meeting is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 26, at the civic center.  The topic will be the Keizer Police Department and how it operates.  This is a wise choice for the council.   The just-repealed cell phone tax was designed to replace money the city spends to fulfill its 9-1-1 obligations.  By using money out of the general fund to pay for 9-1-1, it takes away from funding the offiices the police department says they need.

Police Chief H. Marc Adams is expected to open the town hall meeting by explaining how his department operates.  His presentation could include the number of personnel the department has currently and how many it needs. Those who go to the town hall meeting should be told what the police department thinks is the optimal level of patrols on Keizer streets.

This will be an opportunity for the citizens to question the police department’s needs and also express what they consider safe levels of public safety.

Different people may very well have different ideas of what constitutes public safety.  Some may feel it means police patrols in their neighborhoods at least once a day, for others it may mean simply safer traffic patterns.Whatever the people’s definition of public safety the city needs to hear it.

Listening to the people is only half of the equation. The council must also get public opinion on its side of impending decisions they feel are in the best interests of Keizer.

We know that no decision by the city council will have unanimous approval from the public.  That’s why the councilors should do all they can to explain their reasoning process on issues that come before that body, especially those they know will be controversial.

The town hall meeting is a good start and we hope that they will continue on a regular basis after the initial one next month.  The town hall meetings will be less formal and they will certainly be less intimidating for citizens than addressing the councilors in their chambers. Even if only three people show up at the first town hall meeting the council should not be deterred from holding others.

Our expectation is that the city will listen and hear what the people have to say but also explain why a particular proposal needs to be passed and why it is good for Keizer. The council may not get public opinion on its side every time but citizens will undoubtedly appreciate the straight talk by the people who represent them. —LAZ