In a jaw-dropping display, Vancouver (WA) City Councilor Jeanne Harris’ treatment of citizens (and a fellow councilor) is the latest YouTube sensation, with over 15,000 hits. The high/lowlights are in the first 30 seconds of the video at right.
Citizen communication periods at local government meetings can be difficult. Citizens have urgent issues on their minds, and are usually not practiced public speakers. The council or commission usually has a focused agenda, which more often than not doesn’t overlap with the burning issues of citizens.
What to do? Usually, councilors can learn valuable information about what’s going on in the minds of some constituents. At times, they simply have to grin and bear random rants as part of the job. Citizens are generally willing to end soon after they are told their time is up.
In this case, the Vancouver City Council members aren’t entirely clear on their procedural rules, in part due to inherent fuzziness about what “the business of the city” includes and why exactly people aren’t supposed to be able to name specific councilors (besides decorum).
As a side note, it’s stomach-turning to see Mayor Tim Leavitt – who by all accounts won his campaign based on a pledge of fighting tolls on the CRC – claim tolling is solely a state legislative issue and no one should be talking about it at the city: “We don’t have a role in the tolling issue.” He's bashed for that here.