Friday Mailbag — Sounding off on Silence

My criticism this week of the Cedar Rapids City Council’s refusal to answer questions or even talk to citizens during public comment time at council meetings drew a heavy response. Most agreed with me that the policy is misguided, rude and silly.

“If all you listen to is the people who agree with you or those who say nothing because they already feel marginalized and don’t want to deal with it, what kind of government do we have?”Steve Hanken of Cedar Rapids wrote in an e-mail.

The silent treatment also seemed wrong to Stella Siver of Cedar Rapids.

“I am a retired elementary school teacher. I compare the council situations to the teaching profession. What if teachers refused to comment, or turned their backs on parents, who came to the teachers and expressed a concern about their child? What if teachers refused to comment when students came to them, asking for help in solving problems in learning or social situations? What kind of examples would they be setting?”Siver wrote. 

Jovita Green wrote, “I have lived here for 26 years and have felt as if the common folk have no voice. It is as if we are just along for the ride with which ever way the winds of the powers that be took us.”

Patrick Murphy said he has nothing against the council, but disagrees with silence.

“I don’t like the mouthy, angry, anti-establishment types who ha-rang at the meetings either but, the Council is giving off a real arrogant, nose-in-the-air message. I think they should reconsider. Stay on this case, please,” Green wrote.

But I was also cc’d on an e-mail this week from from former City Council member Chuck Swore to Gazette city reporter Rick Smith and current council members Brian Fagan and Kris Gulick. He argues that the newspaper is being hypocritical in shining a spotlight on the no-response policy.

“I can’t believe the recent stories and editorial comments about the councils decision to not respond to the public. I am living proof that being outspoken and opinionated is not what the public or the Gazette wants in council members. The need to polish my public decorum, and MY idea to sell Twin Pines are 2 perfect examples of why they don’t want to say anything. NO ONE including the Gazette ever challenges the off the wall comments made by some public speakers. They are never held accountable for any of their comments,” Swore wrote.

Fair enough. But I still say being afraid of political ramifications or bad media coverage is no excuse for clamming up.

I also received some great advice stemming from my recent embarrassing wrong turn into my neighbor’s driveway. It’s tough to tell the houses apart in north Marion.

“I think I have a solution that could help in the future. I suggest that you paint your front door and/or the trim on your house a different color. In the area I live, there is a gray house that has a burgundy front door and matching trim. It is quite attractive,”wrote Martha Troxel

Good idea. I’ll give it some thought.

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