Getting your questions asked in a Council meeting

I chaired the July 27th budget meeting, the last of four over four straight nights. There wasn’t a single public comment on any section of the budget, which we have been reviewing one department at a time. Virtually no member of the public attended in person.

I’m surprised. You’ve heard the advice to the inquisitive to “follow the money.” This is where the plan to spend all the city’s money gets decided…and zero people have comments?

Granted, it’s on TV, and our meetings have been webcast since 1999. And granted, there was zero controversy this year between the Mayor and Council, or between the administration and some other person or entity.

But sometimes I think it has to do with something much simpler: the structure of the meeting. As a member of the Council, I have the right to ask unlimited questions during the Council Questions period of any deliberation. Members of the public can only comment during Public Comment; they can’t ask questions.

Since I suspect that that knowledge is a deterrent to some people to attend and/or speak in public, I felt I should say this: if you send me a question on any topic being considered by Council, I’m willing to consider asking it on your behalf.

I reserve the right to not ask it, of course. I won’t ask questions that aren’t relevant to the topic being discussed. And I won’t ask questions that I personally think are irresponsible. (Sorry, you don’t get to argue with me about what “irresponsible” is. You don’t like it? Run for office yourself, and put up with the crap I put up with.)

But if I were no longer an elected official, I would approach a council member and request that they ask reasonable questions for me. I know enough about the members of this body to be assured that I could get them to do so. In short, I would approach them as if I were a member of their body.

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