Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Council In Its Natural Habitat

I went to the Council Meeting last night. First one I've been to in a while. It occurred me that the issues weren't as important as how Council handled them, and that this was a great opportunity for observing incumbent council candidates before the election in November. So I'm going to try to get to meetings the next 2 months and report back here.

To be fair, I'll report on how every councilperson conducted themselves.

First off, while it can be pleasant to have the Council President welcome everyone with a "Good Evening," the fact that he kept repeating the phrase until receiving a response he deemed acceptable was not pleasant at all. Harking back to my comment Monday, about how we taxpayers don't want our representatives treating us like children, this was a prime example. I've seen Mr. Simpson do this at public gatherings, and I think it's just a bad habit of his. Yet, it makes his audience uncomfortable, like we're all naughty kindergarteners. It's certainly NOT appropriate for a formal council meeting.

Only one other note about Mr. Simpson: At one point, he jumped the gun, asking our new Municipal Administrator and our Codes Enforcer to look into a matter without consulting the rest of Council or anyone else, which came across as high-handed. As it turned out, Codes and the Chief of Police were already aware of the problem, and a discussion from the rest of Council came up with some good options for next steps in the matter, so I'm glad everyone else jumped into the conversation.

Ms. Christian asked the most questions, seeking clarification on almost every motion. Her questions seemed intelligent to me (I can't claim to be an expert on the issues they were discussing). She also kept her head up and stayed engaged in the discussion, offering suggestions for solutions or knowledge about ordinances.

Ms. DeSouza was next as far as number of questions asked and knowledge offered. She too seemed to stay engaged in the discussion throughout.

Mr. Caldwell also followed the discussion, and competently ran the part of the meeting dealing with Public Safety. He explained quite well a new proposal for truck parking. However, Mr. Caldwell did not ask many questions on the motions or join in the discussion. Perhaps he already thought he had a good handle on the motions, but I for one, like to to see my reps question details.

Ms. Lawrence ran the part of the meeting regarding Finance and did it well. Otherwise, though, she kept her head down (using a tablet computer, I think--perhaps she was taking notes), and only joined in the discussion twice.

Mr. Burke said absolutely nothing except "aye" when his name was called for a vote. Impossible to know if he even realized what he was voting for.

Mr. Millner was caught not paying attention three times. He was completely uninformed about an amendment they voted on (though perhaps all the others were, too, but he was the only one who spoke up). He kept his head down almost the whole meeting (by the way he was moving his fingers, he was on his phone). Other than asking for things to be repeated, he only engaged in discussion once. At one point, he left the meeting, phone to his ear, and missed 3 votes before he came back.

Mr. Millner seems unaware that his behavior was unacceptable in a council meeting. Even more so for a council candidate. Hard to take him seriously when he doesn't take Norristown's business seriously.

Generally, Council, PLEASE talk into your microphones. You tried at the beginning of the meeting, I admit, but you kept forgetting. We'll have to come up with a hand signal we in the audience can use when we can't hear you.

And for those of you who are lame ducks, all we ask is another half year of good representation. Give us our money's worth.

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