Be smart, be brief, be gone

WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL heard about 30 speakers at a meeting in June 2019 (OC Tribune photos).

This will probably shake the foundations of the West Orange County area, but I actually agree with one recent decision of the Westminster City Council.

Just in case you didn’t read it in a recent issue of The Tribune, the council voted 3-2 in favor of a policy that will split public comments at council meetings into two parts.

To be taken up toward the beginning of the meeting would be remarks relating to items on the agenda. Toward the end would be comments unrelated to agenda items.

The pros and cons line up like this: the existing policy of having all public comments toward the start allows all speakers an equal opportunity to address the council, OR, the existing policy makes meetings drag on for hours and hours, resulting in sessions that sometimes go well into the next morning.

There is a principle in the law that says “Justice delayed is justice denied.” I want to add to that with “Democracy delayed is democracy denied.”

For the last few years, Westminster council meetings have been notorious for lasting five, six, even seven hours long at which point everyone’s brains are fuzzy and eyes are glassy. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that the council members have spent much time arguing and accusing each other, and pursuing policies which make council members want to argue and accuse each other.

Regardless of its origins, the idea of having to wait well past the ninth inning of the latest Angel loss until the public’s business can begin by making decisions ends up meaning that with 99 percent of the public asleep, decisions are made practically in secret.

The other reason things get so out of hand is that many speakers do not bother to organize their thoughts, or stop talking when they are done. The theory seems to be that if I repeat my point five or six times, I will prevail.

Actually, the more you cover the same ground, the more likely your audience – both the council members or people in the cheap seats – is to lose focus and tune you out.

There’s a term for it: MEGO, which stands for My Eyes Glaze Over. With the problems still facing Westminster, there will be a need for people with their eyes wide open.

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