Today’s Column — Thumbs and Council Silence

After being whipsawed from a warm promise of spring back into the glazed depths of winter, I’m lacking the mental stamina to stick with one point for an entire column.

So here are some random thoughts on some random subjects.

The sky still hates us – I’m not going to dwell on the weather. You’ve heard enough. But am I the only Corridorian who sobbed softly upon waking up to the sound of sleet pummeling our bedroom windows very early Monday?

Just hours earlier I was driving with my sunroof open and a Cubs spring training game on my radio.

A thought occurred to me in the dark. If I left now, I could easily be standing on a lush, green tee box by sometime on Tuesday.
Instead, I heroically delivered my wife to her job in Iowa City on Monday morning. And evidently the Iowa DOT picked I-380 to try its new costsaving “no plow, no salt” program.

Cell phones yes, smokes no – It looks like a bill taking aim at drivers who talk on cell phones or send text messages will crash and burn ahead of a Statehouse deadline this week.

A lot of people would like to see some sort of crackdown on idiots multitasking themselves into our back bumpers. So why is the bill dying?

A good rule of thumb to remember at the Statehouse is that lawmakers usually won’t ban things they themselves do. Busy legislators often drive and yak on their mobiles, so they’re not about to make it a crime.

It took legislators, many of whom enjoy tipping back a few cold ones, several years to lower the blood alco hol limit for drunken driving, despite the threat of losing federal road funds. Legislative leaders who are raking in campaign contributions are rarely interested in meaningful campaign finance reforms.

Most lawmakers don’t smoke, so it’s no wonder they raised the tax on cigarettes last year and are now moving to ban smoking in public places.
It’s not going to affect them.

So you might wonder why the overwhelmingly straight Legislature doesn’t move to enact a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage? Because that would break another, stronger rule of thumb.

If there’s a way to plausibly avoid action on a controversial issue, then do nothing. In this case, leaders are letting the Iowa Supreme Court handle same-sex marriage.

The silent treatment – Rick Smith’s great story Monday morning on the Cedar Rapids City Council’s reluctance to respond to public comments at its meetings left me shaking my head.

Why are so many people who seek public office frightened of having to engage in a public debate? I know confrontation can be uncomfortable, but what part of your oath of office guarantees comfort? The fact that you have a rocky relationship with a handful of perpetual critics doesn’t override the importance of an honest, public give-and-take with citizens.

Never mind that sitting there like a stony-faced Politburo while people describe their government-related troubles looks silly and feeds the notion that our politicians don’t really care. And it’s that idea that feeds the ire of your critics and breeds the sort of confrontation you seek to avoid.

Say something. You’re politicians. It can’t be that hard.



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8 responses to “Today’s Column — Thumbs and Council Silence

  1. Doug

    The reason these Council members aren’t responding and shouldn’t respond is because so many over so many years have attempted to play “Gotcha.” This is one thing that hasn’t changed with the form of government.

    For far too long, the conventional wisdom amongst these self-styled Svengali’s of the public interest have maintained that if an elected or appointed official doesn’t know exactly how much is being spent on a widget at that very moment, then they must be hiding something or aren’t qualified to hold the office they were either elected to or appointed to.

    There are a few who have forgotten that along with rights come responsibilities. The Council can and should respond to people in a timely manner, but that shouldn’t necessarily mean immediately.

  2. Kathy

    This is nuts. This is being done to “punish” the public. I think it’s a blessing in disguise. We can talk to these members and not have to listen to their rhetoric in response! One of them sooner or later will “bust a gut” having to keep their mouth shut and that will be the end of the no response rule…. darn.

  3. Robert

    Maybe if the public has more good things to say rather than being hyper negative. People would listen to them more.

  4. Rodger

    Absolutely Ridiculous “Doug” The members of the Cedar Rapids City Council are ELECTED government representatives NOT APPOINTED. Appointed individuals apparently feel they have no responsibility to the voters, ie: “Chamber”, “Downtown whatever they call themselves now”, “Compensation Board”. the list goes on. To conduct a “Public Meeting” by “Elected Government Officials” and to sit there like a bunch of lumps- on- a- log and not respond to the voters immediately and verbally, is the height of ARROGANCE! The lame excuse of “Well we might become entrapped by certain questions” is just that…A LAME EXCUSE!!!!!!!! If you aren’t adult enough to recognize a set-up and smart enough to talk yourself out of it, you have no business of running for office in the first place! Elected Officials work for the voters, not themselves.

  5. Doug

    They do the same thing to appointed officials, as well. Sorry I wasn’t clear cnough for you on that one.
    There are plenty of opportunities to discuss issues with elected officials at so many different times, it’s not like there are no options. And if you listen, “Rodger,” you can hear the cries of “Why don’t you know the answer,” building up already if they say, in response to a question, “You know, I’m not sure, but I’ll get the answer for you.”

    I hope you have a wonderful day!

  6. Steve

    Has it occured to anyone that a response at the meeting will be recorded, and for all intent and purpose, be witnessed by the public. Something you don’t get with an e-mail that isn’t responded to or a short conversation with no witness. He said, she said doesn’t hold much weight. So what happens if I bring my own camera after the meeting to document what is said? Will they clam up or no? If they do, maybe we should have a camera on each councilman all the time, they would get real tired of all that listening, something politicians aren’t very good at in the first place.

  7. Doug

    Local elected officials are hardly politicians.

  8. Art

    Council time and attention are limited resources. I would like the council members to use their brains to analyze and create. Council members can respond to thoughtful and useful public comment, but it is pointless to argue with people like CM and AR who seem to be self-centered not city-centered!

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