Branson, Missouri Alderman Bob McDowell spoke briefly today about proactive government. McDowell brings a business management philosophy to city government. One of his ideas leads to a better democracy. Companies will soon be responding to a Request For Proposal issued by the city to create a polling mechanism by which government officials can gauge public opinion. City leaders would have feedback as to how citizens feel - good idea.
Citizens aren't always happy and Branson has a mechanism for them to respond. Anyone can take 10 minutes every city council meeting to speak their mind. Sometimes, I feel sorry for the Alderman as an irate individual uses the podium to issue aggressive remarks. Some of my peers find this annoying - personally, I like the idea that everyone has a voice, of course, this means, having to put up with some annoyances - small price to pay for what could be the most democratic city in Missouri.
As we look at our neighbors and try to improve our community by rising to the bar others have set we should look at the bar we've created as a community that tolerates opposing ideas (even those that are painful to listen to).
A childhood friend of mine commented, "your community really loves democracy." Yeah, we do and setting an example for democracy is a good idea albeit some ideas expressed have no visible productive end result. Citizens often find themselves irritated by an editorial they've read or a perception that may have little basis in reality, but they have 10 minutes that leaders are required through statute to listen.
As we look at the surrounding communities policies we should also look at the bad examples they've set. Christian County has a horrible track record when it comes to the sunshine law and undoubtedly evidence of corruption will rise to the surface over the next couple years. Kansas City set a new bar to the level of corruption a city can handle before the citizen's react. A suburb of St. Louis revealed perversion of public trust through a corporations report to the police. In some cases, we are the example of responsible government. I believe in the first amendment and acknowledge our local government has no responsibility to precede with open dialogue under its auspices. Still, lessening the time for citizens to share their ideas is a movement in the wrong direction.
City code may soon be altered to limit citizen diatribes to five minutes, after which an alderman can motion to extend. A change allowing dialogue between a speaker and city officials is a good idea. If we allow this more than neighboring communities - good.
Yeah - the meeting is "city council's", who work for......