Sunday, February 24, 2008

Recommended Reading For Springfield Residents: Jackehammer Hits The Nail On The Head

I started moderating comments on this blog soon after I wrote this:

What they do is they form a committee to get where they want to go and get them what they want (Vision 20/20, SP5). Or they will hire a consultant to tell them what they want to hear. And if you disagree or call them out, well you turn into an 'aginner' and eventually they all just end up acting like my old dog: he acted like he was listening to you, but after you said your piece he went and did what he dang well pleased.

Read Jackehammer's blog.
In response to a comment on Council Bill 2008-058
I decided to post this response to (a) question on my last post (JackeHammer: Council Bill 2008-058) about the City's Green Building policy resolution, Council Bill 2008-058, as an entry rather than in the comment section. Mainly, I just felt it was too long and covered too much territory to post in the comment section. in response to his comment on concerns I raised about the Green Building Policy. He asked:
"Well, a question...if they (Council) had just done it and citizens found out later about the green building standard and perhaps higher construction costs...would we have a whole host of blog entries/talk radio show rants/talk radio phone calls/letters to the editor from all around the Ozarks about it being "done in secret"? At least they're being open about it."

My response:

...certainly the City Council makes requests of staff all the time. When they, as a whole, make requests of staff it is usually done in an open forum, at least that's what the Sunshine Law requires and we assume it is so unless they cite state law which makes it legal for Council to meet in closed session. Generally, when the public perceives they haven't had an opportunity to weigh in on an issue it's because they weren't paying attention and LOST their opportunity, not that there wasn't an opportunity in the first place.

Then, that scenario brings rise to what I think is the deeper question.

Look at the Storage Container issue for an example, and honestly I haven't had a chance to look over the proposed ordinance closely yet, but I did attend the last storage container meeting before they drafted it. At that meeting the owner of "Pods" was there and he was concerned about the signage being restricted to 12" x 12" for very legitimate reasons. His signage is larger and it is EMBEDDED into the pods but the limitations of signage wasn't changed when the draft was released. So sometimes, it seems that regardless of public input and how legitimate it is the City makes decisions, after celebrating a whole host of public input sessions, that appear to disregard legitimate issues. It makes it appear to be almost a bait and switch, the City has public input, is able to pat themselves on the back for providing ample opportunity for it and then, BAM! The City disregards it and does what they want anyway.

Offering an opportunity for public input isn't enough. There has to be a genuine want to listen, consider and make changes that legitimately rise out of those input sessions.

Look at Park Central Square, lots of opportunity for public input but no real consideration of the fact that it is a Halprin design. Should it have been a part of the process for the City to acknowledge and educate the public about the renowned landscape architect who designed it? Well, I think so, because clearly, now we may have a legal problem brewing because the public didn't realize the value of a Halprin design until it was, in the City's mind, too late to incorporate it and stay within the timeline of the Heer's development agreement. That was poor planning, in my opinion. Now, it seems to be a ticking time bomb, an unnecessary ticking time bomb that if handled correctly from the beginning could likely have been defused months ago, when there was time to handle it. To further complicate things, Councilman Chiles, on the Vincent David Jericho program said he DID raise that question at one of the first public input meetings. Tim Rosenbury later told me that if he'd considered Halprin's design earlier, right after Ruth Kelley's letter hit the News-Leader, the consideration wouldn't have effected the timeline.

The question in this posting is, and was in the previous posting I made about the Green Building Policy: Is it necessary to pass a resolution in order to build green? The city's attorney said no, it isn't. I question taxpayer money and resources being spent unnecessarily for really, no other reason than to make a statement about "being a leader in sustainability." There's nothing wrong with being a leader in sustainability but taxpayer MONEY could have been "sustained" without passing an unnecessary resolution meant to do nothing but make a statement.

Your question about, "if they had just done it and citizens found out later about the green building standard and perhaps higher construction costs...would we have a whole host of blog entries/talk radio show rants/talk radio phone calls/letters to the editor from all around the Ozarks about it being "done in secret"? With the addition of your statement: "At least they're being open about it." Do you mean to imply they've done something special by being open about it? There shouldn't be anything "special" about the Council doing something in the open. Under the Sunshine Law they are very limited in what they can do "in secret." Certainly, when the City does a good job they should be commended however, the openness of government, by law a requirement, should not be viewed as something "special".

It is a welcome thing to ask for public input and a good START, but then, when looking back over the process later, after all is said and done, the real proof in the pudding is whether the City Council holds the staff and contracted employees accountable for actually considering that input, all of it, not just the part that supports what they want to accomplish. There's where public input counts. It isn't in the opportunity to have it, it isn't in the opportunity the City then has to hear it, it is in the opportunity the city has to utilize it when it is legitimate. The Council is supposed to be representative of the people who voted them into their positions

I've heard Mayor Pro Tem Deaver on more than one occasion say, "We can't please everyone" and that's true. They'll never please everyone BUT, that said, I don't recall ANY member of the public making a statement that they think Council's actions SHOULD please everyone. That makes that statement a straw man argument, because no one has ever indicated the people expect the Council to please everyone. So, why bring that up? Is that an appeasment meant to excuse the Council for making decisions that don't consider legitimate complaints from the public they are supposed to represent?

I suspect your question wasn't raised to be answered, it was raised to make a statement but if asked in question form you are protected from being questioned about your assumption. The fact is, we don't and can't know the answer to your question. This is why I suspect it was raised to raise suspicion about someone who expressed a legitimate concern about the Green Building Policy. That's my take on it because it certainly didn't address my concern about the policy or anything I actually wrote. What does your question have to do with my concern about the unnecessary and perhaps untimely taxpayer money and resources spent to bring this bill to Council?

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