Thursday, August 2, 2007

LAB Proposal Pulled

Apparently Mayor Cole couldn't line up enough council support for his proposal to merge the Liquor Advisory Board duties into the Mayor's office, so pulled it from the agenda Tuesday. However, I've been by a couple of people the description of him as angry as described in the article in the Southern is incorrect and that he was pretty even tempered throughout. On the other hand, I've also been told the article was pretty accurate.

I stuck my head in to see what was going on but the council had already adjourned to closed session to deal with personnel issues by the time I got there, so I can't say one way or the other. Anyone who was there care to give their view?

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Comments:
The mayor was extremely angry. Did he scream or curse? No. But he did feel the need to tell a member of the audience that he would not 'give him the satisfaction of feeling that he was withdrawing the proposal' because of the person's comments.

He petulantly defended his violation of the liquor code outlined in the July 17th article in the DE, and sarcastically called on the Chief of Police, City Attorney, and City Manager to investigate the matter, after the speaker had requested that of the council.

He further said he was tired of the innuendo and speculation about corruption in the office of the Mayor.

He also, for the second meeting in a row, saw the need to lecture the audience on the meaning of democracy, rambling on for ten minutes about the un-democratic nature of the city manager system that we have in Carbondale.

When a member of the audience sought to speak, he repeatedly banged his gavel, yelling - yes, yelling - that the speaker was out of order, and had the man removed by police. Completely unnecessary.

He finished with a flourish, claiming that he was confident that the proposal would pass if put to a vote, but that he had every intention of withdrawing the proposal from consideration, suggesting that he called the meeting for that purpose alone. Disingenuous? An outright lie? You be the judge.

If you were there, it was clear that he was mad, and he acted like a child during his comments to the audience.
 
Basically, from what I've heard on the radio, he flipped a lid because no one would support him on his proposal.
 
Yes, I am in complete agreement with these folks. Mayor Cole was out of order, insultive, disrespectful, and overall unprofessional at the meeting which I attended. He also did not allow the 4 remaining citizens to speak. He became so angry, agitated, and defensive, he decided it was "his turn" to speak and I myself was not given the opportunity to share my concerns which include Mayor Cole being in charge of beer garden licensing and special permits to change hours of operation and non-alcohol event hours of operation, instead of the commission, if his proposal had passed. Listen for yourself on the audio at City of Carbondale website if you have a chance, and then you can decide for yourself. I think the newspapers were generous in describing him as angry. He was throwing a temper tantrum because he wasn't hearing what he wanted to hear. Plain and simple and shows he lacks the maturity to handle conflict and not takes things personally. He could have found some common ground of agreement with the people, but he was so annoyed, he missed an opportunity to present himself as someone who we would want to have more power. After that episode, if you had any amount of respect or trust, it's gone.
 
I wonder how he's going to react when people start asking him to follow through on his campaign promise of 8 policemen and 6 property inspectors. Apparently, the money he guaranteed was there for these things isn't available without the sales tax and also hasn't been identified as part of that plan either.
 
He was angry and insulting and beratted the citizens for giving their opinions (which obviously did not agree with his). If I were watching this on tv, there is no way I would ever go to a city council meeting to give my opinion on anything. You can get a copy of the tape of the council meeting in the city clerks office. Judge for yourself.
 
A Perspective on the LAB Controversy and the Meaning of a Democratic Carbondale

After having listened to the Carbondale City Council Meeting online, read the local newspapers, and several blog entries, I’ve come to the conclusion that the very fact that we’re able to see this matter represented in the local media as a controversy, is itself a testament to a process of deliberation often associated with “democracy.” Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Mayor Brad Cole actually did what a majority of this community put him in office to do: he looked at his surroundings, proposed changes he believed are in the best interest of Carbondale’s development, and then withdrew his proposal upon listening to and assessing the circumstances and desires of those whom he represents. I ask, and this is wrong how??? A proposal is just that, the suggestion of a plan or idea to be put up for discussion and deliberation, it does NOT mean the imposition of said plan.

Political philosophers have argued that, minimally, “democracy” means ‘equality’ and ‘reciprocity,’ which is to say, democracy cuts both ways. If a community intends to partake of its society’s leadership, it too must take up the responsibility of listening to proposals of diverse perspectives, and reflect on the attitudes with which it judges them. In this regard, I am concerned that the attitude with which Mayor Cole’s proposal was being heard was not at all open; from the outset it had more to do with both political mistrust and distrust. I am further worried about the expectation that such vote of no-confidence is supposed to have gone uncontested. Which is to say, safeguarded by a mass we call “community,” or “majority,” does that give us the right to offend a person?

While I entirely agree that Mayor Cole’s delivery might have come on strong and could have been much more invitational, this does not take away the fact that he was not even given the benefit of the doubt even when he does not, to my knowledge, have a proven track record of corruption. Thus, the relational strain that emerged from the exchange that took place on July 31st comes to me as no surprise, since a relationship based on doubt is doomed from the beginning: the one side has already made up its mind about the other. The tendency then will be for the other to respond in kind. This attitude can get us nowhere that is productive, and furthermore, it can only foster divisiveness. Democracy, which is to say equality, cannot take place within a dynamic of doubt and surveillance, and it seems to be exactly what we seek to encourage by not offering a vote of confidence to someone we elected into office.

If a community seeks to work under a system of “checks and balances,” it should keep in mind that, like the tango, for corruption to take place, it takes at least two. An elected official cannot be corrupt on his/her own, we partake of that corruption every time we make it difficult for someone to have access to resources they require for their livelihoods since that difficulty plays on their need to do “anything it takes” to obtain the resources they seek. In this way, we too should be held accountable for what we ask for from our leaders. To demand is easy (even when that demand is for no change), but to stop and think of the consequences, for all of us, of such demands is a different matter all together. An “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to how we live and do our daily lives is not always the best solution, it can in fact kill innovative ideas and keep us from growing.

Finally, I fear the use and abuse of the term “transparency” when we have lost sight of our capacity to examine what assumptions underlie its circulation. I agree whole-heartedly with Councilwoman McDaniel when she argued, during the Council meeting of July 17th, that such an idea implied wrong-doing. Transparency is an illusion that presupposes the supremacy of one perspective: the right one. Moreover, its’ pursuit discourages looking at the part our own agendas play in the judgments we cast. If we begin by acknowledging that none of us are innocent players in the game of politics, including me writing this piece, then perhaps that is more of a common ground from which to begin a real conversation and not a battle of (political) wills.

Sandra Calderón-Garza, M.A., ABD
 
I agree whole-heartedly with Councilwoman McDaniel when she argued, during the Council meeting of July 17th, that such an idea implied wrong-doing. Transparency is an illusion that presupposes the supremacy of one perspective: the right one.
----------------------------------

This is the same misguided argument that the mayor was making. People weren't saying the LAB proposal and discussion wasn't transparent; they were saying that if the proposal passed, then liquor decisions would be less transparent to the public. Given that we'd go from decisions being made in front of t.v. cameras to being made by a single person in the privacy of an office, its true on its face that the prosal would lead to less transparency.

Plus, transparency in no way implies wrong doing. But having transparency makes it more difficult for people -- present or future -- to engage in wrong doing. Again, the mayor missed the mark with his arguments here. He kept pointing to all the things the city manager did as evidence that we are an "undemocratic" system. But it was a non-sequitor (and I suspect he knows it) -- the proposal wasn't taking authority away from bureaucrats for elected authorities, but away from an elected body to a single person. Again, how is that more democratic? Its simply not.

Finally, the idea that his election had anything to do with this issue is ridiculous. Not only did he never suggest it as a proposal during the election, but it was the first thing on his agenda after suggesting that other things -- new policemen, new code enforcers, and no new taxes -- were his priority. I'm sorry, but this isn't why he was elected. He's savvy enough to know this, which is precisely why he didn't say a peep about it prior to the April election.

I appreciate that people thing this is motivated by a dislike of Brad. And to some degree it is (how can you blame them when you consider the money he took from people with liquor liscenes?). But to suggest that calls for "transparency" only have to do with that is ridiculous in my opinion.
 
Dear Anonymous who responded to Sandra's opinion,

I would feel more comfortable answering a question concerniing "transparency" from a person willing to be "transparent" him or herself. What's "transparent" about weighing in on politics and civic discourse, yet not signing your name?

It is not my intention to sound crass here, but if this were taking place the other way around, surely you'd argue that everything should be done "above the table" for purposes of "checks and balances" and accountability. How does not identifying yourself make you accountable for your opinion for example?...Again, it cuts both ways Anonymous.

Sandra Calderon-Garza
 
Sandra, there is a huge difference between a blog and being an elected official. If I held elected office, I'd put my name behind my words.

On a blog, logic is sufficient. And since you didn't (couldn't) respond to the logic, it leaves me wondering whether you've backed off of your argument or not.
 
SThorne, bloggers, and readers

I apologize for the length of the response, but there was much responding to do and in a clearer manner I suppose. Thanks for allowing me the room!

Dear Anonymous who responded to Sandra,

I’m trying to understand how you’ve come to your conclusions, so let me go through each of your points to make sure I’m hearing your arguments correctly.

Response to your last post:

“Sandra, there is a huge difference between a blog and being an elected official. If I held elected office, I'd put my name behind my words.”

I agree with you that there are differences in kind between providing an opinion in the media, and proposing policy changes. However, in my opinion, public opinion greatly influences policy and therefore, must share the burden of responsibility.

“On a blog, logic is sufficient. And since you didn't (couldn't) respond to the logic, it leaves me wondering whether you've backed off of your argument or not.”

In what way is logic “sufficient?” Is it stated, implied somewhere? And if it is, I have questions about your logic that I’m trying really hard to figure out. So help me understand it.

I "back off" only when I'm led to believe differently according to sound arguments. If you help me understand your point of view, perhaps I can do that.

Response to you first post:

“People weren't saying the LAB proposal and discussion wasn't transparent; they were saying that if the proposal passed, then liquor decisions would be less transparent to the public. Plus, transparency in no way implies wrong doing.”

First, I never implied that people said the LAB proposal and discussion wasn’t transparent. In discussing “transparency,” I was pointing to the fact that it was being put forward as the principle argument for rejecting Mayor Cole and Jeff Doherty’s proposal. In the recent past, community members have utilized this very same argument to express their discontent concerning other issues. If analyzed closely, Sheila Simon herself used this argument as a basis for her entire campaign in fact. What this demonstrates, in my humble opinion, is that “transparency” comes up often enough in local politics to merit examination regarding the implications of how we apply the term, and this last incident provides a clear opportunity for reflection. Locally, I think the term is used interchangeably with the idea of “out in the open,” and I’m all for that. However, I must insist that if I’m truly going to uptake a framework of democracy, “out in the open” goes for all of us, not only for those whose opinions we disagree with.

All this to say, clearly the fear is that Mayor Brad Cole will become a despot and wield his newly acquired power for personal gain, negatively impacting our community along the way. If we are to analyze this “out in the open” let’s ask where our judgments come from. If the weight of someone’s negative past track record has led to the fear of corruption, can’t the weight of someone’s present positive track record lead to a lifting of that fear? Recall that on various occasions those who voiced their corruption concerns at the City Council Meeting insisted that they were not aimed at the present City’s leadership, as they “liked” Mayor Cole’s work thus far (e.g. One person went as far as commenting that mayor Cole was the first Republican he’d ever voted for), but that it was a cautionary measure for the future. As long as we maintain a Council-Manager form of governance, what is to keep a future Council from amending the ordinance revision proposed by Cole and Doherty, if Cole indeed proved to be corrupt? I’m simply concerned that just as we may argue that Cole’s and Doherty’s proposal may inappropriately disenfranchise some community members, can’t it also be argued that we may inappropriately disenfranchise our leadership? Let us apply to ourselves the same standards of judgment we apply to our leaders.

Now, concerning how you believe that a call for “transparency” does not imply-someone’s wrong-doing…can you please expand? I can’t see the reasoning that led to your conclusion. Why would someone plead for another to be “out in the open” if it were not because someone had hidden something before and it had resulted in a negative outcome?

“But having transparency makes it more difficult for people -- present or future -- to engage in wrong doing.”

Actually, I couldn’t agree more with you; I just want to know what it is we’re calling “transparent” and that we’re making responsible use of it!

“Again, the mayor missed the mark with his arguments here. He kept pointing to all the things the city manager did as evidence that we are an "undemocratic" system. But it was a non-sequitor (and I suspect he knows it) -- the proposal wasn't taking authority away from bureaucrats for elected authorities, but away from an elected body to a single person. Again, how is that more democratic? Its simply not.”

I think Mayor Cole cited the City Managers’ duties in order to inform the unknowing audience of the distinction between their posts. It is not uncommon for those of us who don’t practice professional politics on a daily basis, not to know exactly how our very own government works. I don’t want to put words in Mayor Cole’s mouth, but perhaps his intention was to say “Hey, I don’t have as much power as you may imagine I do.” As a mediator between the community and the Government, one of the Mayor’s duties is in fact to educate and inform the pubic, so I disagree that his comments were a non-sequitor. Furthermore, by the logic of your argument, as a symbolic representative of “The People,” the Mayor would have in fact been restoring authority to them, which could be considered very democratic!….This is semantics and is absurd of course! But it comes back to the idea that we must be responsible for the arguments and accusations we put out since they have an effect on our perceptions of actual real people, also community members, and their circumstances.

“Finally, the idea that his election had anything to do with this issue is ridiculous.

I appreciate that people thing this is motivated by a dislike of Brad. And to some degree it […] But to suggest that calls for "transparency" only have to do with that is ridiculous in my opinion.”

As in the case above, I never implied any connection between the election and this issue in particular. I cannot see how you arrived at that conclusion and would need for you to clarify in order to appropriately respond.

Finally, this is a fine link from the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy providing some guidelines governing civic discourse in today’s society. It’s an interesting read…

http://www.k-state.edu/icdd/Principles%20of%20Civic%20Discourse/PrinciplesofCivicDiscourse.htm

I "rest my case."
 
While I won't stop people from posting anonymously, it makes it a lot easier for people to respond to your comments if you give yourself a tag, like 'paladin" or "sandra calderon-garza".

My opinoin, the Mayor did not show clear reasons for the change. As I noted in another post, questioning the Chamber of Commerce did not indicate any problem or dissatisfaction with the current system. For change to take place, it's incumbent on the change agent to show convincing reasons for the change.

If the mayor could show instances where the LAB's existance had slowed or driven away business, he would have had more of a basis for his proposal. Merely calling the current system inefficient and out of step with the rest of Illinois wasn't enough.
 
Sandra wrote:

"However, I must insist that if I’m truly going to uptake a framework of democracy, “out in the open” goes for all of us, not only for those whose opinions we disagree with."

I don't believe that anyone who was against the LAB proposal suggested anything of the sort. Indeed, this is a purely made-up argument that the mayor also offered. Take Simon as an example -- while for the smoking ban, she advocated for opponents to have a chance to speak. I can't think of how anyone has tried to supress the mayor's point of view. But if government no longer takes place in open meetings, then it (again, by definition) lacks transparency in a democracy.

Sandra also wrote:

"All this to say, clearly the fear is that Mayor Brad Cole will become a despot and wield his newly acquired power for personal gain, negatively impacting our community along the way."

Well, he already accepted thousands in dollars from bar owners in town. I'm sorry, but the idea that he would then hold both licsencing and punishing power over a central industry in this town is troublesome. But the problem isn't him per se. Sure, I think he's a scumbag but I wouldn't want Simon to have this power either (even if I don't think she'd abuse it).

Sandra also wrote:

"I don’t want to put words in Mayor Cole’s mouth, but perhaps his intention was to say “Hey, I don’t have as much power as you may imagine I do.”"

Go listen to the audio. He clearly leads into the whole diatribe about the city manager by saying that people want more democracy, not that people think he's too powerful. It was a non-sequitor then and it still is a non-sequitor.

Sandra also wrote:

"Furthermore, by the logic of your argument, as a symbolic representative of “The People,” the Mayor would have in fact been restoring authority to them, which could be considered very democratic!"

You can't get to this point from what I wrote without warping the logic. I'm sorry, but taking the power from an elected BODY and giving it to a single representative (he himself says he is first among equals) is never MORE democratic. Nothing I wrote suggests as much.

Finally, Sandra wrote:

"As in the case above, I never implied any connection between the election and this issue in particular."

To which I point to your earlier words:

"Furthermore, it is interesting to note that Mayor Brad Cole actually did what a majority of this community put him in office to do:"

If this doesn't allude to the election, then to what are you referring?


As to why I post anonymously...I got tired of the censorship by Peter and David because I disagreed with them (even though I never used pejoratives or engaged in diatribe). You'll forgive me if I don't want to make it easier for them even if I know Scott and think he's a genuine person.
 
Interesting discussion. I'm enjoying reading the points people are making.
 
Dear Anonymous,

I benefit greatly from these exchanges, just please don't decontextualize me :)

Ypu posted only this fragment in your response:

"Furthermore, by the logic of your argument, as a symbolic representative of “The People,” the Mayor would have in fact been restoring authority to them, which could be considered very democratic!…"

Please include this the next sentence, from my original post, which clarifies my thoughts.

"This is semantics and is absurd of course!"

Thanks Anonymous!
 
And I pointed out that you had misrepresented the logic of my argument, which is why I didn't trouble with the rest of the thought. Your point was still wrong.
 
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