Photo by George Lauby
Tim Barrett, at left, Brook Baker and their tattooed forearms.
My god, they are talking.
City council meetings are a lively thing to watch of late, thanks to the addition of new members Brook Baker and Andrew Lee, coupled with some solid stalwarts.
Baker and Lee add more spark the council. They speak up, ask questions. Sometimes they even give instructions to others.
During debate two weeks ago over the bailout for our troubled bowling alley, Lee admitted to everyone he was torn about the decision.
Lee went so far as to say that he was “completely lost,” at one point — words that seldom come out of the mouths of a politician.
You have to appreciate his openness.
Baker speaks up often. He was the prime ramrod when a new inspection ordinance was finally enacted for mobile homes. He essentially declared that the city needed it, and the opposition melted away.
The addition of Baker and Lee to council stalwarts Tim Barrett and Jim Carman makes the meetings even more interesting.
Together, this council discusses things up front in open meetings. They hammer out disagreements in front of the audience and the cameras for all to see.
At the last council meeting June 3, Baker negotiated a bailout (well okay, call it the incentive) with Gary Suhr and Lonnie Parsons to help them buy the bowling alley.
Suhr and Parsons were sitting in the audience. To their credit, they stood their ground and made a counter offer.
Given that poise, they should be able to make the bowling alley profitable.
That’s also the way open meetings of government representatives should work. Nobody gets theatrical. Nobody preaches to the choir. Nobody makes long, philosophical speeches. Nobody clams up.
They work it out.
Baker and Barrett are working-class fellows with tattoos on their forearms. Not that tattoos make them any more able, event though “tats” are typically an indication of assertiveness.
They happen to sit side-by-side at meetings. They don’t always agree, but they otten take the same approach. If something needs to be questioned, one or both of them asks.
Not long ago, they teamed up to lead opposition to buying a new vehicle for the city public service department, pointing to the city’s paltry cash reserves.
Later, they questioned the accessories that were added after a similar vehicle was purchased.
Those are fiscally responsible questions the public expects from a city council.
Long gone are the days when public comments were confined to the end of council meeting, after other decisions were made. Good riddance.
This council is so intent on clarity that they speak directly to someone in the audience when it’s appropriate.
Carman, who typically speaks his mind and sticks by his decisions, once called a resident from the podium to his desk to look at a map and clarify exactly where the man’s house was in relation to a proposed cell tower.
That’s the way to get things straightened out.
Not everyone says the city operates better under this council than previously.
But most of us council watchers agree that this council exemplifies open government, where discussions are spontaneous, businesslike, civil and fruitful.
In my opinion, this council is on the path to creating the best government that a community of good people can create.
This opinion was first published in the Bulletin's June 4 print edition.