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Let’s All Go To The Snack Bar

By JJ Gaspaarotti
By JJ Gaspaarotti

Mayor Kelly has a point and it’s not on his head. He posited that public meetings of city government last way too long into the night. He is correct. City Council meetings have turned into a clean, well-lighted place where gadflies gather like moths to a flame. It’s like that old drive-in movie advertisement, “Let’s all go to the snack bar.”

Our government’s public meetings and their important outcomes have become an exotic form of an evening’s entertainment.

Many a long dark night can be spent by citizens, squirming in uncomfortable chairs, waiting for their turn to recite the lines self-appointed organizers fed them in large print on the paper they’re clutching. It’s like they’ve been hypnotized.  All they need is somebody to snap them out of their trance so they can go home to do something important, like laundry.

One of the biggest issues is the sad fact that after the same canard has been repeated for the umpteenth time it begins to take on the veneer of fact. This could be funny if the decisions made at these meetings weren’t so consequential.

Our decision makers begin to falter, weakening in the face of this onslaught. The crowd starts to resemble the bar scene from “Star Wars.” Long after the moon has set bad decisions will be made.

The winners celebrate and the losers grumble. Any appeal available will be filed within the required deadline. All are assured that another long night awaits.

But where is it written that government business should be the subject matter of an evening’s entertainment? Public participation is vital. But shouldn’t all the participants have more invested than just a sore fanny from the furniture?

We could have our meetings during normal business hours. Many government agencies do this already. Nobody’s First Amendment rights are violated. This way decisions will be made by the same light of day that we have to live with them in.

Certainly, missing work in order to attend a public meeting can be a burden. That’s the point. We all should ante up a little if we want to stick our two cents into the process of making policy decisions.  Otherwise our participation becomes gratuitous.

The plus side is those who have put themselves out to attend such a meeting gain a measure of credibility from the very fact that they are there.  Once we realize we have to inconvenience ourselves to attend many of us figure it isn’t really worth all the trouble. Often times that’s exactly right.

 

JJ Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11. He has loved it ever since.

 

 

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