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An embarrassing city council meeting

By Scott Tibbs, June 17, 2016

The June 15 city council meeting was an utter embarrassment. The city council - dominated 9-0 by Democrats - showed that not only do they not care what their constituents think, but they do not even want to hear what we think. They have completely failed as representatives of the people.

Between thirty and forty people showed up to oppose the city's decision to give $3,000 to Planned Parenthood. As soon as they saw how many people were there, Steve Volan immediately moved to limit debate: Two minutes per speaker and forty minutes total for public comment.

The first limitation is reasonable. The second one is not. Limiting the time of each individual speaker allows everyone to have their say, and keeps the meeting moving along in an efficient way. But by limiting the public comment to 40 minutes, at least six people were not allowed to speak, and there were more who would have spoken but did not bother to wait in line knowing that it would be cut off.

It was a shameful spectacle. As elected officials, it is the city council's job to listen to the public's opinions on legislation. If they are not willing to listen to the constituents who pay for their salary and their health insurance benefits, they are not qualified to be on the city council and should resign from their position.

I called on Dorothy Granger to recuse herself from the vote, because Granger is a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood. Granger is not legally obligated to recuse herself, but it nonetheless presents an appearance of impropriety for a Planned Parenthood clinic escort to user her position of authority to funnel tax money to the organization where she volunteers. The funding would have passed 6-0 even with Granger abstaining, so there was no reason for her to vote. (Two councilors missed the meeting.)

The city council did not even bother trying to justify the specific appropriation of funding to Planned Parenthood. Susan Sandberg said that the council has decided to allow funding for operating costs, but the guidelines for the program still discourage operating costs in favor of one-time investments. This is the relevant passage from the letter the council sent to social service agencies:

This restriction is intended to encourage innovative projects and to allow the funds to address changing circumstances. To make funds available for those purposes, this restriction discourages agencies from relying on these funds from year to year and from using these funds to cover on-going (or operational) costs, particularly those relating to personnel.

The council could not have possibly cared less about any of the objections raised by speaker after speaker. In years past, some on the council would at least attempt to justify the funding for Planned Parenthood, but now they do not even attempt to do that. They just sat and begrudgingly listened to us remonstrate against therir plans, and finished with the attitude of "we will do what we want and if you don't like it, too bad." They do not see themselves as representatives. They see themselves as rulers. It was shameful.

Particularly striking was that the council completely ignored a woman who described how she was repeatedly raped for years, forced to take contraception to cover up the rapes, and forced to have multiple abortions when the contraception failed. She warned the council that by funding contraception for teenagers, they are enabling the very same abuse that she endured. The Democrats simply did not care.

Yes, the meeting was frustrating, especially because the council is so arrogant and cares so little what their constituents think. But it is encouraging to see progress in the community's opposition even if that is not reflected on the council. It was pretty lonely for a long time when the only opposition to this corporate welfare was me and maybe one or two others. Having thirty to forty people there to show the council there is real opposition was wonderful. I am deeply grateful to all of the people who showed up that night, both those who stood up to say "no" and those who were in the audience to support us. Thank you!