Here in Franklin every Common Council meeting at City Hall begins with a citizens comment period. Any citizen, even someone living outside of Franklin, is allowed to speak on any subject. Generally during this time it is customary for the council members to do two things:
At a council meeting that took place in July of 2015 a private citizen used the appropriate time to criticize some of the members for their constant bickering. I’ve documented in previous blogs exactly what happened, so I won’t go through it all again. The details can easily be searched and found.
While the citizen spoke (he happens to be a volunteer parks commissioner whose term is up for renewal next Tuesday) he was interrupted and yelled at by an alderman, not once, not twice, but three times. The alderman later apologized but the scene was ugly and unprecedented.
Unlike the unruly town hall meetings taking place all across America, what occurred that night was a reversal. The elected official wasn’t being yelled at. He was doing the yelling.
That’s my lead-in to a piece on Governing.com by Myung J. Lee, Executive Director of the non-profit, Cities of Service. Here’s a brief excerpt:
And elected officials at all levels of government would be wise to follow the example of city leaders who are partnering with citizens to find real solutions to real public problems.
These are leaders like South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is a master of using social media to work with his constituency. When I saw Buttigieg at the last year’s CityLab conference in Miami, I asked, “What do you do when people are steaming mad at you?” His advice:
Reminder. The aforementioned Franklin citizen was not the steaming mad party. He actually spoke calmly before he was yelled at, three times.
Getting back to today’s read. You can read it, and learn Mayor Buttigieg’s advice, here.